World Economic Forum tests blockchain technology for tracking carbon emissions

Shipping coal by train at Glencore's Prodeco coal project in Colombia. Credit: Glencore.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) has completed the initial stage of a blockchain platform for tracking embedded greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions across the mining industry’s value chain.

The WEF’s Mining and Metals Blockchain Initiative (MMBI) released a proof of concept called the Carbon Tracing Platform (COT) to help mining companies trace emissions from mine to final product, the WEF announced in a Dec. 15 press release.

Most estimates of the carbon footprint of the mining industry’s value chain are currently based on industry benchmarks or non-standard unverifiable sensors, says Jorgen Sandstrom, WEF’s head of mining and metals.

“This limits the [organisation’s] control and ability to improve the footprint,” he explained in an email to The Northern Miner. “Our vision is to enable verifiable visibility of the embedded emissions from the mine to the market, and the COT is a big step forward in delivering this vision.”

The COT, he continued, is focusing on tracing carbon emission in the copper value chain and tracks GHG emissions from the mine to the smelter, and finally to the original equipment manufacturers. The platform, he said, has created a blueprint to track all essential metals from mine to market and back via recycling.

Developed in collaboration with industry experts and supported by Dutch blockchain technology company Kryha (or Holland-based instead of Dutch-based) and MMBI project manager and adviser Susan Joseph, the COT uses a distributed ledger technology to track carbon emissions, ensuring traceability of emissions from the mine to the final product, with a focus on end-to-end traceability.

The distributed nature of blockchain technology enables cross-enterprise collaboration, making it the ultimate networked technology.

“The COT demonstrates that participants within and across the value chains can collaborate and test practical solutions to sustainability issues that cannot be resolved by individual companies,” Sandstrom said.

“Having an industry approach enables us to focus on practical and viable ways to deliver on our vision,” he said. “We’re also exploring how to best work with other groups such as standards and assurance groups.”

Illustration by elenabs/iStock.

The work follows the formation of the MMBI in October 2019, which was created in response to demands from stakeholders to develop mine-to-market visibility and accountability.

The MMBI is a collaboration between the WEF and mining and metals companies, including Anglo American (LSE: AAL), Antofagasta Minerals (LSE: ANTO; US-OTC: ANFGY), Eurasian Resources Group (TSXV: EMX; NYSE: EMXX), Glencore (LSE: GLEN), Klockner & Co, and Minsur.

The initiative aims to build responsible sourcing and sustainability practices into the industry by accelerating an industry solution for supply chain visibility and promote environmental, social, and governance requirements that use blockchain.

Commenting on the COT, Benedikt Sobotka, CEO of Eurasian Resources Group and co-chair of the Global Battery Alliance, said: “We believe that enhanced collaboration around blockchain technology is necessary to improve supply chain transparency and reporting on carbon emissions.

“The MMBI’s custom-built blockchain solution will allow customers to verify the environmental impact of the products they use, and we are excited to have entered the next phase of the platform’s development,” he added.

The consortium is currently testing several hypotheses about the future of the platform, Sandstrom said.

“Feedback sessions with industry stakeholders will be scheduled in early 2021,” he said. “Those sessions will help the group refine the vision and set the framework for the next phase.”



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