Modern slavery is prevalent in the minerals sourcing sector, and currently it is difficult – if not impossible – for corporations to identify poor practice in their suppliers. While there are laws to try to prevent it, in many cases these laws can not be properly enforced, even with extensive due diligence processes.

Could there be a solution that would identify and abolish modern slavery, once and for all?

Unethically mined minerals

Conflict minerals fund conflict when they are mined and are often mined by slaves. These are people, including children, who are paid nothing or very little to mine minerals. Human trafficking and forced labour is not only confined to the mining sector. It is also a common occurrence in agriculture, food, clothing and various other industries, too.

However, cobalt and the 3TGs (tantalum, tungsten, tin and gold) are often sourced from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where modern slavery is rampant. Cobalt and 3TGs are major components of smartphones and other modern technology.

The demand for cobalt and 3TGs is only increasing as demand for this technology increases.

There are a myriad of ways in which this could be dealt with, though there is no ‘fix all’ solution. The fundamental solution is better data management and reporting. This can be done through blockchain technology, but it also requires improved conditions, better local wages, and a movement towards sustainable prosperity.

In a situation where miners receive a very small wage, if mines are closed or lose business due to companies sourcing elsewhere, it’s the workers that often lose out. This is because they inherently depend on the mine to bring them money.

When the situation is slavery and there is no financial dependency, the loss of presence could be more reductive. However, sustainable prosperity in these areas is still a necessity.

Technology cannot ‘solve’ the slavery problem

66,000 trafficked persons out of 40 million were rescued in 2017.

It’s clear that our current actions are not effective.

This is where blockchain comes in. It provides auditable, tamper-proof reporting. This allows companies to look at their supply chain and identify anomalies or abnormalities. Then, movements can be made towards more ethical conditions and implementation of sustainable prosperity for communities. The technology alone will not fix the problem, however.

Modern slavery is not a problem that one corporation or organization can solve. Rather, it would require the collaboration of multiple major corporates who are sourcing these minerals implementing proper technology and higher standards.

Abolishing modern slavery is a huge task, but one that would be universally beneficial to give everybody’s comfortable state of living – not just those in a place of power.

At Blockhead, our platform STAMP Supply is bringing traceability into supply chains. To find out more, click here.