Reuters is reporting that there's a pilot of a blockchain solution that is underway to track cobalt from when it is mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) all the way until it is used in the manufacturing of electronic products such as smartphones and electric vehicle rechargeable batteries. The aim apparently is to ensure that the cobalt used in various electronic products is not that which is mined by children in some of the DRC's artisanal mines.
Although the report by Reuters doesn't disclose any details as to who is behind the initiative and specifications of the solution, they do however say that "sources close to a pilot scheme expected [it] to be launched this year."
Already in 2018 we've heard how De Beers Group, a group of companies involved in diamond exploration, diamond mining, diamond retail, diamond trading and industrial diamond manufacturing, is working on The Diamond Blockchain Initiative - a blockchain technology solution that will provide a single, tamper-proof and permanent digital record for every diamond registered on the platform.
Cobalt supply chain journey. | Core Consultants
The idea of using blockchain technology for tracking the cobalt supply chain also was highlighted in 2017 at the Cobalt Development Institute’s annual conference where Core Consultants presented on their proposal on how blockchain technology can be used in the cobalt supply chain starting at the mines in the DRC. What Core Consultants propose is that artisanal miners take their cobalt to a trader in the DRC who will weigh the bag using a standard scale and using a standard spectrometer, he will identify the contained cobalt. This information will then be digitally captured on the blockchain. After that, the cobalt is allocated a barcode, which is subsequently registered on the blockchain.
"The payment to the artisinal miner is processed- that payment is recorded and he is given an amount of money. So we have a physical transaction, digitally recorded: Cash in exchange for goods. So now what we have is evidence of the miner bringing the cobalt to the traders and the traders paying for this cobalt based on weight and contained cobalt. So the evidence is recorded and this evidence can be viewed by everyone on the blockchain," reads a presentation that Core Consultants published at the conference.
This pilot comes after many years where companies have been criticized for consciously using cobalt mined by children in their products. One such company, Apple, went as far as saying that it will start treating cobalt mined in the DRC as a conflict mineral.
Cover image credit: Wolframite and Casserite mining in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
| Wikimedia Commons