IBM and MineHub Technologies Bring Blockchain to the Mining Supply Chain

In Dust Control, EK35®, EnviroKleen®, Environment, Midwest Industrial Supply, Inc., Transportation by Jim Silva

A new solution from IBM and MineHub leverages blockchain technology to resolve transparency and efficiency issues within the mining supply chain.

When it comes to next-generation technologies, mining is one of the most forward-thinking sectors in the global economy. The $1.8 trillion industry is adopting everything from driverless railcars to automated drones to remote-controlled UAVs in order to increase efficiency and improve worker safety. Now, thanks to a collaboration between Minehub and tech giant IBM, mining companies can add another emerging technology to this already impressive list: blockchain.

The two companies hope to resolve long-standing issues in the mining supply chain with greater transparency and efficiency. “By digitizing the supply chain, we can increase the level of automation, reduce reliance on intermediaries and increase the speed at which goods are transferred from miners to end buyers,” explained MineHub CEO Vince Sorace in a statement. “This is a significant advancement for an industry looking to integrate and use data in ways not previously possible.”

First Steps for the Platform

The first use case will be deployed by Goldcorp to manage the supply chain from its Peñasquito mine in northwest Mexico. The goal of the new blockchain platform is to create a reliable, immutable record of the series of transactions that make up the mine’s entire supply chain, from the moment the gold ore is retrieved from the earth to the day it’s sold on the market. The ledger will also allow for verification that every ounce of gold was mined using ethical and sustainable practices.

But while Goldcorp will be the first to see the platform’s capabilities at work firsthand, they are far from the only mining business involved in the venture. The IBM/MineHub collaborative effort will also be leveraged by companies on the financial side of the mining industry, like Wheaton Precious Metals and ING, the bank that provides much of the credit used by Goldcorp to sustain operations at its Peñasquito mine. Blockchain will be used to create “smart contracts” for common supply chain processes that would normally be recorded on paper.

“As a global leader in banking in the metals and mining sector, we feel many of the operational challenges that our clients face,” said Arnout van Heukelem, Global Head of Metals and Mining at ING. “Blockchain has the potential to reduce or even overcome these.”

The Future of Mining with the Blockchain

Blockchain technology is a cryptographical innovation that brings unprecedented levels of security and transparency to online transactions. As Cointelegraph defines it, “Blockchain is a shared, digitized ledger that cannot be changed once a transaction has been recorded and verified.” All parties to a given transaction, as well as several administrative third parties, would have access to a copy of this same ledger — as a result, it becomes nearly impossible for criminals to fraudulently alter a transaction, even if they were to gain access to the blockchain platform.

The utility of this technology in mining would be to not just protect precious metal mining businesses from cybercriminals, but to eliminate inefficiencies associated with manual, paper-based processes that have traditionally hounded the industry. The easier it is to find and verify the partners in each transaction along the supply chain, the reasoning goes, the faster that gold will be able to leave the mine and reach the market.

Gold isn’t the only supply chain IBM is targeting with its blockchain technology: the IT company is also collaborating with Ford to track the movement of cobalt mined from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Midwest Is Helping Mining Become More Efficient

The solution from MineHub and IBM is part of an exciting industry-wide trend towards the use of new technologies to eliminate inefficiencies and bring down operational costs. Not all of these solutions are brand-new, however — for example, dust control solutions from Midwest Industrial Supply, Inc. have been helping mining businesses avoid regulatory fines and reduce maintenance costs for over 40 years.

Products like EnviroKleen® and EK35® trap the fines of mine haul and access roads into the surface. Because they bind to the aggregate materials already in place at your worksite, there’s no need to rebuild road surfaces with expensive, hauled-in aggregate. These products are also certified as non-toxic, non-corrosive, and environmentally friendly by independent agencies like the EPA, which means your business can rely on Midwest to avoid getting slapped with heavy fines by regulatory agencies.

Technologies like blockchain are allowing mining businesses to cut out inefficiencies — technologies like Midwest’s dust control solutions are helping these same businesses save the costs they need to invest in these next-generation technologies.

Midwest is exhibiting at the Elko MIning Expo, June 3-7. Stop by Booth #101 and talk dust with us!

Jim is Midwest’s Business Unit Manager for Global Mining. He is experienced in operations management, asset management, and business improvement.