If you have not seen Black Panther yet, I'm not giving anything away by telling you that Wakanda, the make-believe country in Africa where it is set, sits in a mountainous region where the imaginary metal vibranium is plentiful. This metal is both very rare and special, and it has allowed Wakanda to develop into a hidden, technologically advanced society. Aside from its deep social undertones — colonialism, oppression, slavery, nationalism and, most importantly, that a black child could see a superhero who looks like him or her — the movie got some play in financial press when Apple announced last week it had entered into talks directly with miners of cobalt.
Cobalt is super-important in the production of batteries for cellphones and electric vehicles. If Apple or one of its competitors couldn't get it, it would be at a major disadvantage — no more batteries to power their products. Hence, cobalt has gone mainstream as an investment opportunity, despite its substantial rise in price over the years. Roughly half of cobalt's production comes from the wartorn northwest corner of Democratic Republic of the Congo, a country with severe human rights violations, dangerous mining operations and terrible child labor conditions.