A new system by a Berlin-based blockchain company, RCS Global, is already in use to tag Cobalt-Tantalum mineral ores from one particular mine and help fight against conflict minerals in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The blockchain solution has been in operation since the beginning of 2019 and has been enabling the company to digitally tag minerals from one mine in particular, the Societe Miniere de Bisunzu (SMB) in Congo.
The system is helping assure clients that these minerals are not coming from mines that use child labor or funded by warlords and corrupt soldiers.
Two-thirds of the global supply of Cobalt and 39% of Tantalum come from the DRC which is known for employing child labor, poor working conditions, and corruption in some mines.
According to Ferdinand Maubrey, Managing Director, RCS Global:
“The system allows purchases of Bisunzu material to be sure that it actually comes from that mine site and is not smuggled into the supply chain from other mines, as much as possible.”
The system works as follows:
Miners wash the ore and move it to the tagging point by the pit
RCS employees watch as government agents attach and scan the tags
Scanned data is uploaded
The exercise is repeated as the bags travel to a nearby storage site for sampling and pricing
The exercise continues as the bags travel via Goma, Tanzania, to the Indian Ocean for shipping to Asia
The entire process is reviewed for anomalies and monitored in real-time by the RCS teams in Germany
Currently, only a paper-based certification scheme is used to tag and identify clean materials. Cases of tags being stolen and used to pass off minerals from smugglers have been documented by U.N. experts.
The need to authenticate clean minerals by companies exists since the U.S. passed legislation in 2010 requiring U.S.-listed companies to disclose where their products are coming from and perform due diligence. A similar European Union (EU) rule is expected to take effect in 2021.
Some of the companies, that purchase raw materials from Congo that are expected to benefit from this system include Ford, General Motors, IBM, Sony, Volvo, Apple, Tesla, Samsung, and Nokia among others.