Ford teams with IBM to trace cobalt on the blockchain

IBM has established a new blockchain platform in cooperation with Ford, Huayou Cobalt, LG Chem, and RCS Global in an attempt to build a transparent method of tracking cobalt production from the mine to the end user.

IBM revealed the pilot blockchain enterprise as a potential supply chain solution for tracing and verifying valuable raw materials all along its production journey.

Marketline’s Global Metals & Mining Industry Profile & Value Chain Analysis had valued the global mining and metals market at US$1.8 trillion in 2018, but the industry has traditionally labored under inefficiencies in the pipeline thanks to a dependence on paper-based, manual processes and a lack of transparency between the varied supply chain participants situated in different parts of the world.

The pilot project is built on top of the IBM Blockchain Platform, and each company involved represents key partners from every stage of the supply chain, including a cobalt mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Cobalt is in high demand in the manufacturing of electronic consumer products, notably as a key ingredient in producing lithium ion batteries, with demand for the mineral projected to increase eight-fold between now and 2026.

However, the high demand has seen cobalt linked with ethical questions dating back to at least 2012, when UNICEF estimated that 40,000 children were working in Congolese mines, recognized sites for the production of cobalt.

IBM is further working with the Linux Foundation’s Hyperledger Fabric to set up the decentralized ledger framework that will ultimately result in a “blockchain platform that could ultimately be used to trace and validate a range of minerals used in consumer products,” according to IBM spokesperson Hannah Slocum.

“Initially, the miner— in this case, Huayou— will add data into the blockchain at the point cobalt is bagged and tagged,” Slocum told Supply Chain Dive. “For key…

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