Glencore joins with miners, Umicore to develop traceable cobalt blockchain technology

GLENCORE and other miners are joining forces with battery material supplier Umicore to make the cobalt used in electric cars traceable using blockchain technology, said Reuters which cited a joining statement by the companies.

Miners and carmakers, under pressure to show electric vehicle batteries are sourced responsibly, are exploring the usefulness of blockchain – a digital platform for recording and verifying transactions that is shared across a network of computers – to improve scrutiny of supply chains and show sourcing does not rely on conflict minerals or child labour, the newswire said.

Umicore, Glencore, China Molybdenum and Eurasian Resources Group will pilot blockchain technology RealSource until the end of 2021 and expect to roll it out in 2022.

Cobalt is in high demand as it is a key mineral for making lithium-ion batteries, as governments and consumers clamp down on fossil fuels such as diesel and gasoline with targets for cutting emissions.

Governance is however challenging as the majority of supplies are from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where Glencore, CMOC and ERG own their mines.

This is not the first time Glencore has sought to improve provenance of metals, especially from conflict areas. It last year added its name to an alliance aimed at supporting small-scale suppliers of cobalt from the DRC.

The alliance aims to eradicate child labour from mining sites and improve working conditions, as well as support educational opportunities in the DRC. It is also backed by Huayou Cobalt, China’s largest cobalt refiner, which supplies carmakers including Volvo Cars and Volkswagen.

The DRC supplies 60% of the world’s cobalt, a key raw material in batteries, but more than 10% comes from informal miners digging by hand, including children. Last year, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Dell and Tesla were sued by a human rights group on behalf of families of children killed or injured while mining cobalt in the DRC.