Apple might have a battery problem on its hands. No, not that one. Apple needs cobalt for its iPhone batteries, but experts fear a potential shortage of the metal with the proliferation of electric vehicles, which require over 1,000 times more cobalt for their batteries than do smartphones. Bloomberg—citing "people familiar with the matter"—reports that's why Apple is trying to secure long-term contracts with cobalt miners. Historically, Apple has let the companies that make its batteries buy the cobalt; this would be the first time Apple goes directly to the source. One person familiar with the matter says Apple is trying to get contracts for several thousand metric tons of cobalt per year for at least five years. Apple itself isn't commenting.
In addition to securing cobalt for its iPhones in the case of a shortage, Fortune reports long-term contracts could help Apple's profits because the company may be able to get a better deal on large quantities of cobalt than battery makers can secure. It could also make it easier for Apple to know where its cobalt is coming from, according to TechCrunch. Half the world's cobalt is produced in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where some mining operations use child labor and violate other human rights. Apple isn't alone in trying to secure cobalt contracts. BMW is reportedly close to a contract for a 10-year supply, and Volkswagen and Samsung are also pursuing multiyear contracts. (Read more Apple stories.)