Apple is reportedly in talks to purchase a long-term supply of cobalt, a metal that serves as a key component in the production of its iPhones and iPads, amid fears of a potential shortage.
Bloomberg reports that it could be the first time that Apple buys cobalt directly from miners. The company is one of the largest users of cobalt, which is in the batteries of its devices, but until now the battery makers have bought the metal.
Apple is reportedly trying to buy several thousand metric tons of cobalt a year for at least five years. According to Bloomberg, talks began a year ago and Apple still may not proceed with the deal.
Other companies have made similar moves. BMW, Volkswagen and Samsung SDI are all pursuing their own deals to acquire cobalt.
Companies are rushing to get cobalt amid fears of a potential shortage, with the rising use of electric cars – whose batteries also use the metal – potentially limiting its supply.
Such companies are also facing growing public pressure to use cobalt that has not been procured using supply chains that involve human rights violations, something Apple has received scrutiny for in the past.
War-torn countries like the Democratic Republic of the Congo have vast cobalt reserves and 20 percent of cobalt from that country is mined by hand and by children in some cases, Amnesty International said.
Apple ranks among the top companies for having taken “adequate action” to make sure its cobalt supply chain is safe, according to the organization.