CHILD LABOUR AND HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES (USED IN SOURCING COBALT) CAN BE COMBATED USING BLOCKCHAIN TECHNOLOGY IN THE DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

CHILD LABOUR AND HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES (USED IN SOURCING COBALT) CAN BE COMBATED USING BLOCKCHAIN TECHNOLOGY IN THE DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is one country that should be very prosperous as a result of the steady increase in the demand of Cobalt.

Cobalt is an extremely important ingredient of the lithium-ion batteries found in electronics and electric vehicles. However, this hasn’t been the case as the country has been static for a while now. This is because of the means of generating the cobalt which includes child labour, exploitation, unfair and illegal treatments.
This can be combated using blockchain technology by ensuring that there’s a proper trace of the production through verifiable supplies of the material ensuring accountability and legality in the production and distribution process.

CRUX OF THE MATTER:
Mark Dummet, Business and Human Rights Researcher at Amnesty International illustrates the crux of the problem- {In a recent report}
“Millions of people enjoy the benefits of new technologies but rarely ask how they are made. It is high time the big brands took some responsibility for the mining of the raw materials that make their lucrative products.”

Big brand names were mentioned in the same report alleging that leaders in electronics and automobiles are neglecting basic checks to ensure that cobalt is sourced without the use of exploitative practices and illegal means.
40,000 (forced) children were estimated to be working (12 days underground with a daily wage of $1-2) in the mines according to a 2014 report by UNICEF.
As reported also by the US Geological survey, miners, with little protective equipment, work exhaustive hours with little pay. They risk injury, long-term health issues, and death in the little-regulated cobalt mines. The report noted 80 miners dying in the underground mines from September 2014 to December 2015, with likely many times more remaining unreported.

Blockchain Solution
The blockchain can be used to bring about transparency and order to the industry. With a distributed ledger that offers assurance for consumers, every bag will have an immutable digital identity and the process or procedure of generating it will be verified. A record will also be made available across the chain from inspectors at the site to the end consumer (including every supply chain). This will certainly bring a lift to the way things are done. Changing business as usual and increasing the benefits it will have economically on the people of the DRC and psychologically on the workers.
To this effect, some industry players in DRC are already developing a blockchain-based solution for this. The only challenge envisaged is penetration as a result of the economic and political realities in Congo. However, with full development and implementation, the industry plans to use the blockchain to gradually bring assurance and trust.

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