Blockchain to Track Congo’s Cobalt from Mine to Mobile

In 2018, researchers piloted a blockchain dedicated to tracking the origins of cobalt. Aimed at tracking the movement of Congolese cobalt through the supply chain from cradle to grave, the blockchain aims to give manufacturers such as Tesla and Apple the assurance that the cobalt in lithium-ion batteries has not been mined by children. The development of this Cobalt blockchain comes in the wake of growing demands for ethically-sourced products, placing pressure on manufacturers. The blockchain comes to fruition following the tagging of a sealed cobalt bag, where weight, date, time and a photo of the extraction are linked to the tag via digital phone by artisanal miners. This process would be repeated as the bag of cobalt moves through various production processes. Developers are currently grappling with how to distinguish different levels of ethical sourcing and production on the blockchain, as the bags can be mixed during processing. This means a “clean” bag could end up with an unethically sourced bag. The drawback with utilizing blockchain to track a mineral such as cobalt is that all players in the supply chain would need to provide data at every step of the way, which is unlikely to happen given the rampant child exploitation in the mining industry.

Chohan, U. W. (2018). “Blockchain and the extractive industries: cobalt case study“. 


Blockchain, Illegal Resource Extraction, Industry/Natural Commodities