ERG to pilot blockchain-based solution to enhance provenance, traceability of cobalt

21st January 2019 By: Simone Liedtke - Writer

Global Battery Alliance (GBA) founding member Eurasian Resources Group (ERG) will be piloting a blockchain-based solution based on the IBM Blockchain Solution, to enhance the provenance and traceability of cobalt in the metal’s supply chain.

Following the announcement on Monday, ERG explained in a statement that the solution would initially be applied to the group’s Metalkol RTR operation in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

While cobalt and other metals such as copper, nickel and lithium drive the global battery sector, their extraction may come at high cost for the surrounding ecosystem, including pollution and the use of child labour, which is compounded by the current dearth of viable reuse and recycling systems, ERG lamented.

The blockchain-based solution helps to ensure the material is traceable, the company said.

The blockchain therefore supports ERG’s Clean Cobalt Framework at Metalkol RTR – a reprocessing plant for historic copper and cobalt tailings from previous mining operations, which is nearing operation.

At full capacity, the facility will supply 24 000 t/y of cobalt to the global market, volumes sufficient to power more than three-million electric vehicles a year.

“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,” said IBM Global Business Services executive partner Niels de Jong.

He explained that leveraging IBM’s digital capabilities enables parties to develop the solution through an interactive approach with clear business focus.

ERG CEO and GBA co-chair Benedikt Sobotka, meanwhile, highlighted that, considering that “cobalt is one of the key enablers of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and a material of the future, it is imperative that it can be sourced in a sustainable way”.

This blockchain-based solution, he added, will aim to enable manufacturers to confirm that the cobalt was sourced at Metalkol RTR by aggregating the necessary data and information on the raw material.

Leveraging IBM’s blockchain platform and expertise, the platform will aim to determine the provenance of cobalt throughout the supply chain, from extraction to production, a process that is currently complex and costly.

Using blockchain will enable the tracing of the origin of cobalt across the supply chain, including once it has been to smelter and blended, and reduce costs through efficient information sharing, tracking and transparency according to the highest standards. 

“As a founding member of the World Economic Forum’s GBA, ERG aims to create new standards in the industry. We are therefore pleased to be piloting this innovative blockchain-based solution on the IBM platform,” Sobotka said, adding that this enables ERG to guarantee with certainty that the material that customers buy is not tainted by artisanally produced material.