Japanese Non-Profit to Use Blockchain for Cobalt Tracing, Aims to Fight Child Labor

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An Amnesty International finding shows that children–sometimes as young as seven, are toiling in cobalt mines in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), central Africa. Far from the gleaming surfaces of modern touch screen devices that rely on batteries, the inhalation of cobalt dust and child labor exploitation for the estimated 40,000 children illegally working as informal miners in the poverty-stricken country is a global concern.

A Japanese Charity, ACE (Action against Child Exploitation), has initiated “Fair Charge! Project” in partnership with Minden—a Japanese electricity firm, and Enection—a rare metals blockchain traceability platform, on June 19, 2020.

Transparency and Traceability in Cobalt Distribution

The goal of this novel project is to ensure complete transparency of cobalt distribution by using blockchain as a reliable traceability platform. Minden will provide the necessary technical know-how in such a way that miners and manufacturers comply with basic human rights and concurrently conserve the environment. They are currently developing a special version of Enection for this purpose.

Geological surveys show that the DRC has a heavy concentration of cobalt ore. Cobalt is a major component of lithium-ion batteries used in smartphones and electric cars. About two-thirds of all cobalt in the world is sourced from the conflict-ridden country. 

Child Labor in the DRC

However, while the general expectation is that mining is done responsibly, several research studies reveal otherwise. 

Reports show that over 40,000 children have been drafted and since half of the two-thirds of exported cobalt is mined by artisanal—or informal miners, the results have been a long list of grieving families. 

Freak and sometimes preventable accidents in these mines have been fatal. That’s on-top of lung poisoning as a result of cobalt dust inhalation.

The concentration of cobalt in DRC and prevalence of child labor means that there is a chance this has tainted the often opaque supply chains of leading brands. 

Consequentially, multi-billion brands including Microsoft, Tesla, and Apple have been accused of unfair enrichment at the expense of child suffering and needless deaths in the country. 

A lawsuit filed by the International Rights Advocates on behalf of affected families is now at a Washington DC court listing the above companies as defendants, The Guardian reports

The ACE Alliance to improve Traceability

To implement the project’s transparency measures, ACE plans to reach out to the smartphone and home appliance manufacturers as well as those in the fashion industry. 

Later, the plan is to investigate the nature of child labor in cobalt mining sites in DRC, Zambia, and Tanzania, before publishing their findings through various channels. The next crucial step is to investigate and visualize the flow of cobalt before recommending ways of eliminating child labor.

Earlier, BTCManager reported that Daimler AG, the parent company of Mercedes Benz, is running a blockchain pilot test to track carbon dioxide emission on its cobalt supply chain.

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