Ford is preparing to clamp down on labour exploitation in the cobalt mines of the Democratic Republic of Congo by using blockchain technology to keep a record of supplies in the metal, a key ingredient for electric vehicle batteries.
The US carmaker will partner with LG Chem, a South Korean chemicals specialist and Chinese mining firm Huayou Cobalt for a pilot programme that will aim to ensure the in-demand metal is responsibly sourced. Concerns have mounted around a practice known as artisanal mining, which often involves children mining for metals by hand.
According to the Congo’s Chamber of Mines, 2m people are involved in artisanal mining in the country, with around 200,000 miners specifically digging in copper mines. Cobalt is usually obtained as a byproduct of copper and nickel mining.
More than 60pc of the world’s cobalt is produced from the Congo, with mining giants such as Glencore operating in the country’s Katanga province.
In its third quarter production report last year, Glencore said it produced 25.7kt of cobalt across the Congo and Zambia in its year-to-date, marking a 49pc increase in production from 2017 as the demand for lithium-ion batteries is set to grow.
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