The Rwandan government is working to track the supply chain of rare earth metal Tantalum which is used in consumer electronics. Rare earth metals like Tantalum are often considered as conflict metals because they originate from areas of conflict and there have been reports of child and bonded labour being used in their mining operations.
Rwanda is one of the biggest exporters of Tantalum in the world and is also plagued by many of the social problems associated with the industry. The governments in the conflict mineral areas are now focusing on the supply chains of the rare earth metal to hold the mining companies accountable and increase transparency in the shady business.
Tracking the supply chain is incredibly difficult because of lack of trusted technology and now blockchain is being pondered over for a possible solution. For this purpose, the Rwandan minister Francis Gatare, who is also the CEO of the mining, petroleum and gas board has announced that a blockchain initiative called “New and Innovative Mineral Traceability Solution” is being introduced in the country and has already been adopted by one exporter based in the country.
The blockchain-based tracking system is being developed alongside a London-based startup called Circulor. Circulor is offering a supply chain tracking system of their own built on the Hyperledger Fabric blockchain system. Circulor’s aim is to promote ethical sourcing of rare earth minerals and other mining products, especially from conflict zones.
According to Douglas Johnson-Poensgen, the CEO of Circulor:
“Circulor will not only assist miners in Rwanda to adhere to strict guidelines laid out in international agreements to remove conflict minerals from the supply chain but will also record all the production stages before a smartphone or computer reaches the consumer.”
Blockchain-based ethical mining solutions are becoming popular around the world. De Beers, a diamond company started a blockchain trial for tracking diamonds from mines to shelves. Chinese startup ZhongAn Technology has also launched a gem-tracking application for increased transparency in the gems industry. Local African governments are also working hard to develop a reliable blockchain-based tracking system for all the rare earth metals being mined from their countries.
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