Mining Giant Glencore to Trace Cobalt Using 'Responsible Sourcing' Blockchain Consortium

Glencore, one of the world’s largest cobalt producers, will use a Hyperledger Fabric blockchain to responsibly source its supply chain.

AccessTimeIconDec 12, 2019 at 8:10 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 13, 2021 at 11:48 a.m. UTC
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Cobalt producer Glencore PLC is joining the Responsible Sourcing Blockchain Network (RSBN).

In a press release Thursday, the publicly traded company, one of the world’s largest cobalt producers, announced it would utilize RSBN’s Hyperledger Fabric platform for its cobalt production and become a full consortium member by February 2020.

The announcement follows Glencore's earlier pledge to consider blockchain in its supply chain. In October it agreed to "design and deploy blockchain solutions" in conjunction with the World Economic Forum and six other mining stakeholders.

RBSN appears to be the beneficiary of that drive. The cross-industry consortium of miners, carmakers, refineries and tech companies has already been building out an audited minerals-tracing platform, which runs atop the IBM blockchain.

It seeks to add transparency to the mining supply chain, an industry often marred by reports of unethical worker treatment including widespread child labor in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a global cobalt hotspot.

To that end, RSBN’s member groups have focused on cobalt as the platform’s first test mineral. Cobalt is a crucial component in lithium ion battery design, leading companies including Ford, Volkswagen, Volvo, LG subsidiary LG Chemical and IBM to sign on. 

The pilot run traced a 1.5 ton batch of cobalt from Congolese mines to a Ford Motor Company plant in Mexico. Now, RSBN members say they will take the system live in commercial production early next year. 

Glencore, too, aims to implement the platform by “spring 2020,” according to its press release. While it will initially focus on cobalt, Glencore said it will bring tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold onto the platform sometime next year.

“RSBN plays a key role in advancing the sustainable partnership between the producers of commodities that will enable the transition to a low-carbon economy and key consumers around the world,” Nico Paraskevas, Glencore’s cobalt marketing chief, said in the press release.

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