Ford has recently announced (Jan 16) a four-way partnership with IBM, China’s Huayou Cobalt, and South Korea’s LG Chem in a blockchain project to monitor the supply of cobalt it uses from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), reports Reuters.
Cobalt is used in the making of batteries that are used to power electric vehicles like the ones made by Ford. For its pilot, estimated to be end around the middle of 2019, raw Congolese cobalt from Huayou’s mine will be placed in secure bags, tracked on a blockchain to LG Chem’s cathode and battery plant in South Korea, and then on to a Ford factory in the US.
Overseen by ethical sourcing group RCS Global, the pilot is meant to ensure that no child labour is used in the mined cobalt supplied for Ford’s lithium-ion batteries, and that none of the cobalt is used to feed armed or political conflict. Tracking how ethical minerals and metals are obtained is tricky especially when they are usually smelted, and possibly from various sources.
Manish Chawla, general manager of IBM’s mining and industrial sector business told Reuters, “There is no fool-proof method, but you have to keep the ball moving forward, to keep raising the level of accuracy.”
Blockchain-based supply chain monitoring is not entirely new, however. Alrosa, the second largest diamond producer in the world, was reported by CCN to have partnered Tracr, a blockchain-based diamond tracker by fellow industry behemoth, De Beers. The project is to ensure diamonds are ethically sourced, and not “blood diamonds” from conflict zones in Africa.