Blockchain is followed by doubt wherever it goes. It’s new. It’s unsustainable. It can’t be trusted.

What if, however, it had the potential to improve entire industries, like mining?

Blockchain is the technology that powers cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum. It’s a permanent database. So, once information goes on there, it’s there forever. But it also has a significant environmental impact.

Consequently, the World Economic Forum has emphasised blockchain’s reputation as an “environmental villain.” This is because of the sheer amount of energy required to mine cryptocurrencies. Bitcoin miners spend up to thousands of dollars just to mine one coin.

So, this much is clear: the power blockchain requires has a large environmental footprint. However, it has more potential for promoting improvement – instead of preventing it – than you might think. Even in the sustainability sector.

1. It can reveal unsustainable mining practices. 

Previously, mining companies use traditional databases and paper-based supply chains. This means it’s easy to change, delete or fabricate information. As a result, it’s difficult to verify that information is correct. Accountability is ambiguous.

Luckily, Blockchain records and tracks every step. This brings in transparency and ensures the visibility of unsustainable or unethical practices. Because of this, unsustainable mining practices are clearer.

2. It encourages conflict-free sourcing.

Often, companies mine ‘conflict minerals’. For example, 3TGs – Tungsten, Tantalum, Tin and Gold – as well as cobalt are conflict minerals. Conflict minerals fund conflict in the areas in which they’re mined. 3TG and cobalt are both mined primarily in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Blockchain documents the source of a mineral and whether any unethical situations occurred in its mining. That’s why we created our platform STAMP. STAMP creates a permanent record of unethical or incorrect practices in a digital ledger.

3. It helps mining companies act ethically.

In mining, there’s talks about ‘sustainable prosperity,’ and this refers to a miner’s social impact. Mining companies often operate near small communities, and affect these communities – usually negatively – with their presence. They might employ child or forced labour, or act in an unsustainable way.

Sourcing ethically-mined minerals isn’t always easy. That’s because in places like the DRC, child labour is prevalent. The DRC accounts for 66% of the world’s cobalt mining, and UNICEF estimates that at least 40,000 children work in the DRC’s artisanal small mines (ASMs).

Blockchain is transparent and permanent, so it allows companies to track murky supply chains. Companies and consumer can therefore ensure ethical mining and provenance of product.

4. It provides up-to-date data.

Many companies use a traditional database or paper-based recording system in their processes. Blockchain records transactions in real-time.

Therefore, if a person changes the data, it’s visible for all users to see. This means that supply chain data is difficult – if not impossible – to falsify. So, companies can track their supply chains with confidence that the data is correct.

5. It can be used to track recycling or rubbish disposal.

Companies like Plastic Bank are recognising the potential of blockchain for the environment. They are implementing it in their mission to reduce plastic. Plastic Bank allow the exchange of plastic for digital tokens or money, so people realise the value of plastic.

Waste disposal in mining, in particular, is an ongoing problem. As a result of mining demand, the global mining waste market is expected to grow to 87 million tonnes by 2022. Consequently, we need blockchain to track the disposal of waste and the recycling of products, both at the end of their life cycle in manufacturing and mining.

Blockhead Technologies is bringing blockchain into supply chains to ensure a better future for mining. Find out how here.