INTERNATIONAL – Carmaker Ford, technology giant IBM, South Korean cathode maker LG Chem and China’s Huayou Cobalt have joined forces in the first blockchain project to monitor cobalt supplies from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The pilot, overseen by responsible-sourcing group RCS Global, aims to help manufacturers ensure that cobalt used in lithium-ion batteries has not been mined by children or used to fuel conflict.
Companies are under pressure from consumers and investors to prove that minerals are sourced without human rights abuses, but tracking raw materials throughout their journey is challenging.
The project announced on Wednesday has been quietly underway since December. Starting with industrially mined cobalt in Congo, it is monitoring supplies all the way to lithium-ion batteries for Ford vehicles.
Supplies of cobalt, expected to be needed in huge quantities for electric vehicles and electronic devices, are concentrated in Congo, a sprawling, volatile nation that has been racked by civil war and political tension.
The outcome of elections in December, which had been intended to be Congo’s first democratic transfer of power in six decades, is contested.