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Cobalt is needed in the production of lithium ion batteries of the sort used in electric cars. An electric car that uses such batteries can contain up to 20 pounds of the mineral. Analysts estimate that the worldwide demand will quadruple by 2026 because of increasing electric mobility.

The most important countries that mine the mineral are the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia. To track the route of the cobalt from the mines of the company Congo Dongfan International Mining (CDM), a subsidiary of the Chinese Huayou Cobalt , to the Ford plants in the USA, a pilot project will deploy blockchain technology. The aim is to create an open, industry-wide network for tracking and validating minerals and other raw materials. In addition to IBM and Ford, Huayou Cobalt, the South Korean chemical company LG Chem and the RCS Global corporation, which is committed to ethical procurement of raw materials, are also involved in the project.

The blockchain platform of IBM is being used as the technical base, along with the Hyperledger Fabric from the Linux Foundation. All of the companies involved in the supply chain should be able to track the cobalt in this way. IBM and Ford are currently looking for additional partners for the project. If it is successful, it will be extended to other raw materials.