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Minerals giant Norilsk Nickel joins Responsible Sourcing Blockchain Network

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“Mining” may be most frequently used in the crypto industry to refer to the process by which digital currencies are collectively generated — but there are contexts in which firms are adopting blockchain infrastructure to manage the most physical of mining supply chains.

The Russian company Norilsk Nickel — the world’s largest producer of palladium and high-grade nickel and a large producer of platinum and copper — has joined an initiative called the Responsible Sourcing Blockchain Network, according to an announcement published on Jan. 14.

The Responsible Sourcing Blockchain Network, or RSBN, is the outcome of an initiative by the global sourcing audit and advisory RCS Global Group. Aimed at improving the transparency, traceability and verification of sustainable practices in the minerals and metals industries, the RSBN network is built on the IBM Blockchain platform and is powered by Hyperledger Fabric

To join RSBN, companies must be assessed — at the outset, and then each year — according to the framework provided for by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD. These requirements are outlined in “Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas.” 

RCS Global Group also audits participant companies according to sourcing standards laid out by an industry body known as the Responsible Minerals Initiative, or RMI. As an RSBN member, several of Nornickel’s supply chains will be audited across its operations from mines in the Russian Federation to refineries, both domestic and in Finland. The data from this audit will be tracked on the RSBN platform, providing a record of sustainable nickel and cobalt production and providing information regarding its maintenance and provenance. 

Nornickel’s participation in RSBN comes as part of the company’s wider digital technology strategy that intends to make its supply chain more “customer-centric.” This appears to refer both to providing more transparency and assurances about sustainable practices, and to create possibilities for Nornickel partners to trace commodity flows “in near real-time.” 

For this second goal, Nornickel is also adopting a platform called Atomyze that tokenizes physical assets. Similarly to RSBN, Atomyze uses Hyperledger, with IBM’s participation.

Prior to Nornickel, British-Swiss commodity trading and mining company Glencore joined RSBN in late 2019, shortly after the World Economic Forum launched its own “Mining and Metals Blockchain Initiative” to promote responsible sourcing and sustainability practices in the global industry.