‘Mining’ is perhaps most commonly used in the crypto industry to refer to the process by which digital currencies are collectively generated, but there are contexts where companies use blockchain infrastructure to manage mining’s most physical supply chains.

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

The Responsible Sourcing Blockchain Network, or RSBN, is it result from an initiative of 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 industry, the RSBN network is built on the IBM Blockchain platform and powered by Hyperledger fabric.

To join RSBN, companies must be assessed – at the outset and every year thereafter – according to the framework established by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, or OECD. These requirements are outlined in “Due Diligence Guidelines for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflicted and High Risk Areas”.

RCS Global Group also audits participating companies against the procurement standards set by an industry association known as the Responsible Minerals Initiative or RMI. As an RSBN member, several of Nornickel’s supply chains will be audited on all of its operations, from mines in the Russian Federation to refineries, both domestic and Finland. The records of this audit will be maintained on the RSBN platform, with a record of sustainable nickel and cobalt production and information on its maintenance and its origin.

Nornickel’s participation in RSBN is part of the company’s broader digital technology strategy, which aims to make the supply chain more “customer centric”. This seems to refer both to providing greater transparency and guarantees on sustainable practices, as well as to creating opportunities for Nornickel partners to track flows of goods “in near real time”.

For this second purpose, Nornickel also uses a platform called Atomyze that tokenizes physical assets. Like RSBN, Atomyze uses Hyperledger, with IBM participation.

Prior to Nornickel, British-Swiss commodities trading and mining company Glencore joined RSBN at the end of 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.