ReISource: Glencore leads cobalt blockchain pilot scheme
Glencore has joined forces with battery material supplier Umicore and other major mining and metals companies to trace the cobalt they produce using blockchain technology.
A global EV pioneer and one of the world’s leading battery makers are also part of the pilot. Tested in real operating conditions, from upstream cobalt production facilities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to downstream electric vehicle production sites, the pilot will run until the end of 2021, with the roll-out of the final solution expected in 2022.
Glencore’s outgoing CEO Ivan Glasenberg commented: “Blockchain technology offers us an unprecedented ability for traceability in the supply chain. Through this pilot, we are supporting the development of this tool for our customers who seek to understand and demonstrate the origin of the cobalt units in their products.
“Traceability is not enough on its own, it must be part of a wider industry effort to bring improvements to the entire cobalt supply chain. This starts with responsible sourcing compliance, for example through RMI; the collective use of wider ESG standards such as CIRAF and ICMM; and supporting the artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) sector in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) sector through multi-stakeholder initiatives like the Fair Cobalt Alliance (FCA).”
Gary Nagle will succeed Glasenberg as CEO in July 2021 and has also re-affirmed Glencore's commitment to sustainable practices.
Assured through blockchain technology, the solution is a unique industry partnership between EV supply chain majors aiming to accelerate sustainable practices for every unit of cobalt mined, processed and used in end products.
Originally founded in 2019, Re|Source was designed with the direct input of responsible sourcing and supply chain experts from all participating companies, proactively addressing the growing need for cobalt value chain visibility.
The end-to-end collaboration between major cobalt industry players working in the DRC deploys various technologies, including blockchain and Zero-Knowledge Proofs, to link digital flows with physical material flows on the ground. The ground-breaking solution is supported by boutique technology studio Kryha, which is experienced in carbon footprint and metals traceability and known for projects with the World Economic Forum.
To meet the consortium’s mission to ensure that all cobalt used in end products will be sustainably sourced, Re|Source integrates a comprehensive set of industrial sustainable mining and sourcing standards and frameworks, such as ICMM, RMI, IRMA, CIRAF, Copper Mark and others. The solution also explores how aspects of the related GHG emissions along the value chain can be traced and disclosed.
Eurasian Resources Group
Benedikt Sobotka, CEO of ERG and Co-chair of the Global Battery Alliance, commented: “Eurasian Resources Group prides itself on being a leading cobalt producer globally, operating the second-largest standalone cobalt production facility with a design capacity of 24 ktpa. As part of our continued efforts to ensure cobalt is responsibly sourced and processed, a key focus for ERG has been collaborating with leading public and private organisations to respond to the growing battery market powering the energy transition and the low carbon economy, which is the biggest purchase order in history.
“Piloting the Re|Source solution is a vital milestone that brings us one step closer to unveiling the significant potential of batteries, while strengthening transparency and the sustainability of battery materials across the value chain – also a mission of the Global Battery Alliance, of which ERG is a founding member.”
Rio Tinto partners with ARENA for green hydrogen research
Rio Tinto has partnered with the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) to study whether hydrogen can replace natural gas in alumina refineries to reduce emissions.
Rio Tinto and ARENA partnering for green energy push
Rio Tinto will conduct a $1.2mn feasibility study, equally funded with ARENA through a $580,000 grant, into using clean hydrogen to replace natural gas in the calcination process of refining at the Yarwun alumina refinery in Gladstone.
The study program includes work to be done at Rio Tinto’s Bundoora Technical Development Centre in Melbourne, where Rio Tinto’s in-house development capability has now been extended to hydrogen.
ARENA CEO Darren Miller commented: “If we can replace fossil fuels with clean hydrogen in the refining process for alumina, this will reduce emissions in the energy and emissions intensive refining stage of the aluminium supply chain. Exploring these new clean energy technologies and methods is a crucial step towards producing green aluminium.
“This study will investigate a potential technology that can contribute to the decarbonisation of the Australian alumina industry. If successful, the technical and commercial lessons from Rio Tinto’s study could lead to the implementation of hydrogen calcination technology, not only in Australia, but also internationally.”
Rio Tinto Aluminium Pacific Operations acting managing director Daniel van der Westhuizen added: “We see the ARENA and Rio Tinto-funded study as a step towards reducing refinery emissions and one that has the potential to play an important part in Rio Tinto’s commitment to decarbonisation.
“We’re investing in work that needs to be done, not only to decarbonise one of our sites, but also to help provide a lower-emissions pathway for Rio Tinto and the global aluminium industry.
“We recognise we are on a long road towards reducing emissions across our operations and there is clearly more work to be done. But projects such as this are an important part of helping us get there.”
Can hydrogen replace natural gas in alumina refineries?
The study comprises two distinct work packages:
- Preliminary engineering and design study conducted to understand the construction and operational requirements of a potential demonstration project at the Yarwun alumina refinery.
- Simulating the calcination process using a lab scale reactor at the Bundoora Technical Development Centre.
Once complete, the study will inform the viability of a potential demonstration project. Rio Tinto has lodged patents for the hydrogen calcination process.
Rio Tinto aiming for net zero by 2050
Rio Tinto is aiming to reach net zero emissions across its operations by 2050. Across the company, it is targeting a 15% reduction in absolute emissions and a 30% reduction in emissions intensity by 2030, from a 2018 baseline.
Aluminium is found in everything from cars to phones. But one of the challenges of producing this essential material responsibly is finding ways to decarbonise the process.
Part of the reason is creating alumina – the main ingredient in aluminium – takes a lot of energy, which in turn creates greenhouse gas emissions. New technologies will be essential to helping reduce emissions, but many haven’t been proven. And some not yet even discovered. Rio Tinto's transformation is being driven by innovation and its partnership with ARENA is a positive step towards these goals.