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Japanese Charity ACE to use blockchain to combat child labor in cobalt mining

child exploitation slavery

The Japanese charity ACE (Action against Child Exploitation) is to begin a project which will use the blockchain traceability platform Enection to help understand the supply route of cobalt and prevent child labor. The chief aim of ACE is to eradicate child labor worldwide and to progress this project, it’s partnering with Japanese electricity firm Minden, which will provide the blockchain know-how.

As Ledger Insights has previously reported, unethical and non-environmentally friendly practices are frequently used in cobalt mining. Globally, around two thirds of the metal resource of this industry is found in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The topic has received press attention for child labor, wages as low as $0.75/day, and dozens of preventable deaths.

Given cobalt’s significance in the production of products such as smartphones, major corporations such as Apple are keen to avoid being associated with unethical supply chains. Hence, many large corporates have been receptive to using blockchain technologies as one solution to address the issue.

ACE intends to reach out to such companies as well as those specializing in areas such as fashion and home appliances to help implement its project’s measures. According to the 2018 Global Slavery Index, G20 countries import $354 billion of at-risk products annually. Included in the figure is $200 billion relating to laptops, computers and mobile phones, and $128 billion of garments.

Initially, ACE plans to consult experts on cobalt mining and investigate conditions in mines first-hand. Through this, it intends to discover what parts of the supply chain process involve child labor and identify any prevention efforts being made.

After this information has been gathered, it plans to apply the Enection blockchain system to trace the origins of cobalt coming from these mines. Through this process and collaboration with battery manufacturers, ACE hopes to help facilitate the production and dissemination of ethical batteries with traceable origins.

A version of the Enection 2.0 platform on which ACE intends to operate is currently under development by Japanese electricity company Minden. The firm, whose major shareholders include SMBC, Mizuho, SBI, Tokyo Broadcasting and Dentsu, initially developed the platform to provide electricity traceability services to help individuals and firms use renewable sources.

Minden recently confirmed to Ledger Insights that the core system will be used for the project with ACE, although it’s not quite the same as the electricity traceability system, which has been in production for some time.

Other blockchain traceability systems for cobalt include the Responsible Sourcing Blockchain Network developed by IBM with VW, Volvo, Ford, Fiat Chrysler, Glencore and others. And startup Circulor was perhaps the first to launch blockchain solutions for ethically sourced metals and minerals and has projects with Volvo and Mercedes.

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