Blockchain in the Mining Industry: Implications for Sustainable Development in Africa

Distributed ledger technologies (DLT) enable the creation of digital databases stored across multiple locations. In the most-advanced design of DLTs, blockchains record and publish transactions through a peer-to-peer and tamper-proof block structure, and operate securely through a consensus-based algorithm. Increasingly, DLTs and blockchain-based initiatives are deployed in the mineral sector to address the problem of conflict minerals, ensure respect for due diligence standards, and improve supply chain management and traceability. The fast adoption of this technology for governing natural resources by creating immutable digital records of sourcing and geological information engenders new opportunities and risks for mining communities across Africa. These include the creation, ownership and access of digital data, the participatory role of upstream actors, and the effects of monitoring and traceability for informal miners and the future of sustainable development in mining communities.