Blockchain Technology Being Used to Track Conflict Minerals in War-Torn Nations


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According to a Bloomberg report published April 24, 2019, an increasing number of companies are using blockchain technology to track the supply chain of valuable minerals like gold, tin, tungsten, and tantalum, among others.

Blockchain Helping Shape a Trillion Dollar Industry

Blockchain, which made its way into the mainstream as the technology that powers cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, is being used for a whole host of different purposes. The technology has, in a short period of time, established itself as a force worth reckoning across a multitude of industries like finance, health, law, real estate, and others.

The World Trade Organization (WTO) postulates that blockchain could add as much as $3 trillion to international trade by 2030. Similarly, the World Economic Forum (WEF) states that it can help close $1.5 trillion trade financing gap.

Translating these estimates into reality is Nathan Williams, chief executive officer (CEO) of blockchain startup Minespider. Williams’ company is using blockchain technology to better track shipments of precious metals from mines to manufacturers.

The Problem of 3TG and How Blockchain Can Help

The acronym 3TG refers to the four extensively used metals in the industrial economy for the production of an array of products ranging from smartphones to fighter jets.

Tantalum, tin, tungsten, and gold are some of the most widely used metals. However, due to their market value, these metals often follow a not-so-desirable and opaque supply chain route.

Per Bloomberg, a lot of times these metals are extracted from mines whose profits are used to fuel the violent campaigns of rebel militaries, criminals, and even terrorists. These metals are also known as “blood diamonds” because of their use in financing criminal activities which could range from orchestrating a military coup to financing terrorist attacks.

In a bid to keep a better track of such metals from the point of production to the point of consumption, Minespider is using distributed ledger technology (DLT) to create data blocks that can be attached to “gold ingots, pallets of tin, or truckloads of tantalum and tungsten as QR code labels.”

These QR codes assure manufacturers that their raw material comes from politically stable countries like Peru instead of a mine in a rebel-run nation like Congo. Williams adds that these QR codes can provide end-to-end supply chain specifics to manufacturers including the shipment’s origin, weight, purity, along with the photographs and signatures of the people who have handled it.

The awareness regarding blockchain-based tracking solutions is rapidly increasing in countries all across the world.

The report makes note of how Congo’s Société Minière de Bisunzu, the country’s biggest miner of coltan – a metal used in pacemakers, computer hard drives, and mobile phones – has ditched a paper-based metal certification system for a solution that produces blockchain-ready data.

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