Metalkol RTR – located in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) – is a reprocessing plant for historic copper and cobalt tailings from previous mining operations. The facility is nearing 100% operation, and at full capacity it will supply 24,000 t/y of cobalt to the global market, sufficient to power more than 3 million electric vehicles per year.
ERG’s Clean Cobalt Framework is a central feature of Metalkol RTR’s operational structure. Implementation of the framework aims to enhance the provenance and traceability of cobalt to establish a responsible supply chain for the lithium-ion batteries that power the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Establishing such a supply chain is a key mission of the World Economic Forum’s Global Battery Alliance (a World Economic Forum initiative), of which ERG is a founding member.
While cobalt and other metals such as copper, nickel and lithium currently underpin the global battery sector, their extraction can come at a high cost for the surrounding ecosystem. Child labour is a recurring issue, rooted in widespread regional poverty. Pollution is another key issue, often compounded by a dearth of viable reuse and recycling systems. ERG’s Clean Cobalt Framework addresses these challenges directly by seeking to establish a verified, socially responsible chain of custody. Blockchain technology could play a pivotal role in the process by establishing a direct, cost effective method of determining the provenance of cobalt across the supply chain, from extraction to production.
“Currently this process is complex and costly,” says Benedikt Sobotka, CEO of Eurasian Resources Group and co-chair of the Global Battery Alliance. “Blockchain technology will allow us to track the origin of cobalt across the supply chain, including once it’s been to smelter and blended. Crucially, the technology’s advanced ability to aggregate data and information promises to reduce costs through efficient information sharing, tracking and transparency – all carried out at the highest standards.”
“ERG’s initiative to implement a blockchain solution to bring together stakeholders across the cobalt supply chain can help transform entire business processes in the mining industry and help bring new levels of trust,” says Niels de Jongh, Executive Partner IBM Global Business Services. “Leveraging IBM’s digital capabilities enables parties to develop the solution through an interactive approach with clear business focus.”
Fittingly, the announcement of ERG’s piloting of Blockchain technology was made on the eve of discussions on the Fourth Industrial Revolution at the Annual Meeting in Davos.
“Cobalt is one of the key enablers of the revolution and a material of the future, so it is imperative that it can be sourced in a sustainable way,” added Mr Sobotka. “As a founding member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Battery Alliance, ERG aims to create new standards in the industry. We are therefore very pleased to be piloting this innovative solution on the IBM platform. This way we can guarantee that the material customers buy is not tainted with artisanally produced, unclean material.”
More about blockchain
Blockchain is a digital ledger system that brings new levels of trust, transparency and speed to complex market systems, whether they be trading systems, financial markets or global supply chains.
Click here to read an Investopedia summary of blockchain technology and its different applications.