Rwandan miners to track tantalum provenance by blockchain

October 17, 2018
Chris Wheal

Blockchain’s use in the supply chain gained a further boost after the head of Rwanda’s natural resources announced the world’s first distributed ledger project to track tantalum mining.

Blockchain ledgers can help prove ethical sources of mined materials

Francis Gatare, chief executive of the African nation’s Mines, Petroleum and Gas Board, announced the blockchain-based project to monitor the production of tantalum from ore extraction to the refinery.

Tracking provenance

The project will also help prove the provenance of the rare metal – used in electronic capacitors – as part of a push to ensure important minerals and raw materials come from sources free of conflict or international sanctions.

Circulor, a UK blockchain start-up, is running the scheme in conjunction with Power Resources Group, a miner and refiner with metals production facilities in Rwanda and Macedonia.

Circulor says that its system will help participants prove provenance and improve supply chain transparency.

Ethical production

“Our blockchain platform will empower consumers to understand where the materials in the products they buy come from and also make it harder for materials that are not ethically sourced to pass through the supply chain,” said chief executive Douglas Johnson-Poensgen.

He added: “It will also dramatically reduce costs for miners who currently shoulder a disproportionate share of the cost of compliance.”

Blockchain’s potential in managing parts of the supply chain and providing details of provenance is gaining momentum.

Benefiting commodity producers

Already several diamond producers are trialing similar projects: Hong Kong jeweller Chow Tai Fook announced in September it was to use a blockchain-powered platform monitor the provenance and quality of its diamonds.

Also last month, Longhash launched a bitcoin tracker as a tool for investors who might be concerned about the source of their bitcoin purchases.

Indeed, former JPMorgan commodities trader Blythe Masters told guests at last week’s London Metal Exchange’s LME Week Dinner that blockchain would revolutionise the industry, bringing greater confidentiality, less paperwork and better traceability to the market.

Now chief executive of Digital Asset Holdings, Masters said at the time: “Blockchain technology has the potential to impact mining industry supply chains profoundly.” She added that there were “tens, if not hundreds of projects under way”.

Post written by Chris Wheal
Chris Wheal is editor of OpenLedger's news and features service. An award-wining business journalists himself, he runs a team of freelance journalists from across the UK and north America.

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