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What mining companies do to track cobalt with the blockchain

What mining companies do to track cobalt with the blockchain

Mining companies rely on blockchain to carry out that "ethical" monitoring of the cobalt supply chain required by investors and consumers

The Anglo-Swiss mining company Glencore and other companies in the sector have joined the initiative of Umicore, a Belgian metalworking company, to trace the cobalt present in the batteries of electric vehicles through blockchain technology.


The blockchain – a sort of digital ledger, shared between multiple users, which allows you to keep track of various operations and verify transactions – can effectively represent a solution for mining and automotive producers, who today find themselves having to respond to the pressures of investors and consumers who demand more careful monitoring of the supply chains and greater guarantees on the absence of human rights violations in the value chain that leads to the finished product.

In this sense, the extraction of cobalt, essential for lithium-ion batteries, is particularly critical. More than 60 percent of the supply of this metal comes from the Democratic Republic of the Congo , where it is estimated that 15 percent of the supplies are extracted by hand, often by children and young people.


In the absence – at least for the moment – of alternatives, there is a great demand in the world for cobalt, given the plans for the electrification of mobility adopted by many governments and car manufacturers around the world. So far in 2021, cobalt prices have risen by 40 percent.

Umicore, Glencore and other companies in the sector such as China Molybdenum and Eurasian Resources Group will carry out tests on the use of RealSource blockchain technology until the end of 2021, with the aim of using it more fully in 2022.

Both Glencore and China Molybdenum and Eurasian Resources Group own cobalt mines in Congo.


In China, above all, companies are focusing on alternative materials to cobalt for battery cathodes such as lithium-iron-phosphate. Tesla's Model 3s manufactured in Shanghai primarily use lithium iron phosphate batteries. BYD, a Chinese auto manufacturer, said all of its models will use such batteries. However, giving up cobalt is difficult, given the demand for more powerful batteries, which guarantee greater driving autonomy.

To date, lithium iron phosphate batteries are worth just 14 percent of the world's batteries in electric cars and light electric vehicles. In 2030, their share is expected to rise to 15-20 percent, but their use will likely be limited to smaller cars.

This is a machine translation from Italian language of a post published on Start Magazine at the URL https://www.startmag.it/energia/blockchain-cobalto-batterie-tracciamento/ on Sat, 29 May 2021 06:00:36 +0000.