Yesterday it was reported that supply chain firm RCS Global has implemented a digital traceability system for tantalum mining. The project hopes to bolster efforts for ethical mining of conflict materials in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
RCS is already part of a blockchain consortium with IBM and Ford aimed at transparency in the mining of cobalt. Both cobalt and tantalum are ‘conflict materials’ widely used for electronics such as smartphones, laptops, and electric car batteries.
Two-thirds of the global supply of cobalt and, according to Reuters, 39% of tantalum comes from the DRC. Some of these mines are notorious for poor conditions, child labor, and corruption.
Tech and auto firms have hence come under pressure to ensure the minerals they use are mined responsibly. RCS’s solution employs digital tags for sacks of tantalum ore so that they can be traced back to specific mines.
“It allows purchasers of SMB 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,” RCS’s Ferdinand Maubrey told Reuters.
Yesterday’s article claims that the tantalum initiative started in January, around the same time as IBM and Ford’s Hyperledger Fabric-based cobalt blockchain. Back then, the members said they hoped to include more metals, but it is unclear whether RCS’s own project is involved or blockchain-based.
Volkswagen and Volvo have since joined the cobalt project with the three firms. Volkswagen, along with Ford and IBM, is a member of the Responsible Minerals Initiative which released blockchain guidelines in December.
Volvo has its own blockchain solution for tracking recycled cobalt with Circulor, hoping to provide transparency in re-using the mineral. Circulor, in turn, was one of the first to launch a tantalum traceability initiative, also using Hyperledger Fabric and based in Rwanda. RCS hopes to expand its project into the country, but whether the firms will join forces remains to be seen.