Blockchain is finding its way into many uses. Most recently, a UK company has implemented the technology for tracking ethical sources of cobalt. The mineral has far-reaching impacts for the green movement, and sourcing it is currently an unregulated nightmare.
Why do we need cobalt, anyway?
Electric cars are in higher demand than ever. Many manufacturers and governments have taken the issue of greenhouse emissions very seriously, and seek to reduce their carbon footprints. One of the most important keys to this issue could be rechargeable batteries, and for those, we need cobalt. Cobalt is one of the most expensive materials that can be used for batteries, both in terms of money and human effort.
Currently, the Democratic Republic of Congo is the major supplier, with two thirds of the world’s supply originating there. Of that supply, about a fifth of that cobalt comes from unregulated ‘artisan’ mining ops. These operations are rife with child exploitation, unsafe working environments, and forced labor.
Companies have been seeking an efficient, ethical way to source cobalt, with reliable verification.
Tracking the good to de-incentivize the bad
Circular, a UK startup, has a plan to lower the cost of creating electric cars and part of this plan is to map out the known clean sources of minerals, such as cobalt. There are Canadian and U.S. based operations, as well as a few Congolese mines, that have shown to produce cost-effective cobalt with safe conditions. Mapping these locations out with blockchain is the real clutch: it will reduce regulatory costs because, once the information is mapped to the open ledger, it will be guaranteed verified.
Companies will have to prove that they are ethically sourcing their cobalt in order to make it onto this map. Anyone attempting to supply tainted metals will be discovered and removed in short order. Once the mapping is complete, innovators will be able to shift their purchasing power to support the ethically proven companies. This step will drive business away from companies who use methods like child labor and show that ethical business practices are the most financially feasible.
Circular CEO Douglas Johnson-Poensgen said that it makes economic sense to start with clean and honest sources. Once the system is operating at scale, it will be able to take on harder cases, and in the meantime, will reward companies that are already operating the proper way.
Humanitarianism benefits from advances in blockchain tech
The ability of blockchain to transfer and store information safely and securely makes it valuable for so many applications. Humanitarian efforts are just one type of endeavor that benefits from the blockchain technology and its attributes. Another application, similar to the verification of clean cobalt, would be diamond track. The diamond trade is notorious for human rights abuses, and Everledger has already managed to implement the use of blockchain in this industry. As technology advances, the world will hopefully become safer, cleaner, and kinder, as well as more efficient.