Blockchain Technology Tapped By BMW For Clean Cobalt

Announcements, Blockchain, News | March 6, 2018 By:

Auto giant BMW has partnered with UK-based startup Circulor to use blockchain technology to eradicate the rampant child labor for producing battery minerals.

Working at the intersection of artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain, Circulor is building solutions to demonstrate provenance and improve efficiency in complex global supply chains.

The goal of the partnership is to eliminate battery minerals produced by child labor. Cobalt is in focus because around two thirds of the world’s supplies are from Democratic Republic of Congo, where roughly one fifth of cobalt is mined in unregulated artisanal mines. The use of child miners for cobalt in Africa is a major problem that has been documented across various reports, with as many as 40,000 child miners working in Congo’s southern region in 2014.

Last year, human rights group Amnesty International said that almost half of the 28 largest companies that use cobalt, including Microsoft, Renault and China’s Huawei, were failing to demonstrate even “minimal” compliance with international due diligence standards. It added that electric carmakers such as Tesla and BMW also needed to do more to disclose the sources of their cobalt.

Circulor said they are working on a pilot for BMW to map cobalt that is already assumed to be clean because it comes from jurisdictions such as Australia and Canada or from industrial production in Congo.

Circulor CEO Douglas Johnson-Poensgen said the pilot shows it is possible to give clean cobalt a barcode and enter the main stages of its journey on to an immutable ledger using blockchain technology. He also said that the technology could help lower regulatory compliance costs, although the economics still needed to be proved.

“We believe it makes economic sense to start with sources that aren’t a problem,” Johnson-Poensgen said. “Once the system is proven and operating at scale, one can tackle the harder use cases like artisanal mines.”