Blockchain for Rare Earth Elements

Blockchain technology has the potential to reshape the Rare Earth Elements (REE) industry, by addressing supply chain transparency, ethical sourcing, and sustainability concerns.

Blockchain for Rare Earth Elements

The Rare Earth Elements (REE) industry serves as the bedrock of modern technology, fueling everything from smartphones to renewable energy systems, and is therefore critical to the growth of our society in the future. Products like uranium, cerium, yttrium, lanthanum and neodymium are used in the refining process of industrial materials such as chromium, nickel, tin, tungsten and lead. However, beneath its vital contributions lies a complex web of challenges that extend beyond technological innovation. The industry struggles with multifaceted issues, including a lack of transparency within the supply chain, ethical sourcing concerns, environmental impacts, and the ability to monitor sustainability initiatives across all stakeholders. In response to this intricate landscape, blockchain technology emerges as a transformative solution with the potential to reshape the REE industry. By tackling these challenges head-on, blockchain technology offers the promise of ushering in a new era of sustainability, transparency, accountability, and operational efficiency.

Understanding Blockchain Technology

At its core, blockchain represents more than a revolutionary technology; it embodies a distinct shift in accountability and transparency. The decentralised and distributed digital ledger is characterised by its transparent, immutable, and secure nature. It functions as a chronological series of records, with each block containing a timestamped transaction record. The immutability and tamper-proof attributes make blockchain uniquely suited for sectors aiming to establish heightened accountability, sustainability and streamlined efficiency within their supply chains. This technology also allows for an easy-to-audit chain of custody from mine to finished good.

Advancing Supply Chain Transparency and Ethical Sourcing

The REE industry faces a critical issue in the form of a lack of transparency within the supply chains across all involved parties, giving rise to unchecked ethical concerns and the potential infiltration of conflict minerals. Blockchain technology offers the chance to dramatically shift the entire industry, by creating an auditable and immutable record of every phase within the supply chain. This newfound transparency empowers stakeholders to trace the provenance of materials, motivating and fostering overall ethical sourcing practices and reducing the risk of conflict minerals gaining access into the supply chain.

The transparency introduced by blockchain technology extends to the verification and issuing of certifications and labels, such as fair trade or conflict-free designations. This capability makes counterfeit certificates easily identifiable for all involved parties in the industry, and provides consumers with accurate information. This, in turn, builds trust and loyalty by encouraging ethical consumption practices and responsible sourcing.

Empowering Sustainability Tracking

As society pursues a path towards a more sustainable future, the REE industry encounters increasing pressure to significantly reduce its environmental impact. Blockchain technology emerges as a powerful tool to monitor sustainability metrics across the entire supply chain from cradle to grave.

Through the integration of smart contracts, the industry can manifest compliance within all sectors of the industry, with eco-friendly best practices, which can be enforced, mandating regular reporting of critical metrics like water usage and waste management. Companies failing to meet these standards could face penalties, effectively incentivizing and fostering responsible behavior within the entire industry.

Furthermore, leveraging IOT sensors within the supply chain through blockchain technology, will give the involved parties in the REE industry, a valuable tool which can serve as a sole source of truth for the entire industry, even when we focus on remote operations within the industry. Remote mines can be connected directly to the supply chain systems, and live data can be tracked monitored and utilized to make live changes, based on real-time readings from these devices. Air quality with the mining environment, throughput of water in the mining operations or live carbon footprint, will become valuable decision-making parameters, when companies are evaluating their supply chains, to a potential electrification of certain aspects of the mining process.

The potential of the blockchain even extends to tracking the carbon footprint of individual products, enabling environmentally conscious end-users to make informed choices. This renewed environmental focus aligns seamlessly with global efforts to reduce carbon emissions, providing companies the motivation and incentive to adhere to and adopt more environmentally friendly practices within their overall operations.

Streamlining Supply Chain Operations

The complexities of the REE supply chain often breeds inefficiencies and delays. Blockchain technology presents the industry with an opportunity to streamline operations by enabling real-time tracking of materials, documents and products. Serving as a live tracker and repository of documentation – incl. both shipping and compliance documentation, blockchain technology offers complete visibility into the supply chain. This enhancement in inventory management mitigates fraud risks and accelerates a large number of processes across the board.

Integrating smart contracts automates payment processes, reducing administrative complexities and minimizing disputes. This automation expedites cross-border transactions while simultaneously potentially reducing the cost associated with traditional banking intermediaries.

Ensuring Fair Compensation and Building Trust

The transparency of blockchain technology extends to financial transactions, guaranteeing fair compensation for all stakeholders involved. In an industry influenced by multiple involved parties along the supply chain, achieving fair compensation can be a highly challenging issue to find a solution for. Blockchain technology captures transactions in real-time, providing an accurate record of actions, ownership transfers, and payments. This creates a foundation of trust among all involved parties, underpinned by the unchangeable nature of blockchain records.

An Alternative Supply Chain

As a response to the current geopolitical situation, with heavy export controls being leveraged on China, who controls over 85% of the global refining capacity of strategic metals derived from within the REE industry, it has become apparent, that the industry must find alternatives to China’s refinement, to keep the global flow of strategic metals going, and continue to supply the downstream manufacturers.

One of the most useful features of the blockchain technology for this aspect, is the ability to track and ensure authenticity and provenance of each product and all steps and processes, that went into transforming it from raw materials and into a finished product.

Furthermore, the predictive analytics capabilities of the blockchain technology, can be utilized to assess and quantify the feasibility and success rate of several alternatives for the industry.

The technology is also extremely agile and flexible, allowing it to adopt to changes made at any point within the supply chain process, and equally the technology is also able to adapt to new legislative changes within the industry, as the blockchain will track any internal and external changes on the blockchain, providing a fully auditable trail as to when and where changes were made within the supply chain process.

Elevating Supply Chain Efficiency

Blockchain technology can improve the efficiency of supply chain management by offering real-time transparency into inventory, production, distribution and shipping processes. These insights into an otherwise blurred portion of the supply chain, allows companies to optimize their overall supply chains, reducing excess inventory and minimizing production delays.

The blockchain technology allows companies to reduce the time spent on collecting information, when everything is logged and recorded directly onto the blockchain, giving the company full access and visibility to their own data within the supply chain.

Previously a lot of the processes within a company’s supply chain were split over multiple systems, but connecting those systems to the blockchain, will ensure a single source of truth for the data processing within companies, who embrace this modern technology and the benefits which come along with it.

By integrating Internet of Things (IoT) devices and sensors, blockchain can facilitate real-time tracking of goods, ensuring they remain within specified temperature ranges and environmental conditions. This capacity can extend to the mining process itself, examining carbon emission levels during mining operations through the utilization of IoT devices. This becomes particularly pertinent for REE products sensitive to environmental factors.

Sharing all of these data points with downstream customers and end-users, will go a long way to help companies forged stronger relationships with loyalty within the industry and beyond.

Contextualising Sustainability Imperatives

To fully appreciate the significance of the integration of blockchain technology within the REE industry, we have establish a common ground understanding, which recognizes that the broader sustainability ultimately drives global agendas for multiple industries all related to the products manufactured within the REE industry. As climate change continue to escalate and the depletion of finite resources is becoming a far more pressing concern, industries are under increased scrutiny to realign and revaluate their practices when it comes to sustainability goals. The REE industry, which underpins many of our most important global technological advancement, is no exception to this fact.

The United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) emphasize responsible consumption and production, climate action, and partnerships for achieving the global goals. The integration of blockchain technology can be integrated seamlessly to help to achieve these objectives by offering transparent tools to track, identify, verify, and incentivize sustainable practices. By ensuring the ethical sourcing of materials, reducing global carbon footprints, and enhancing supply chain efficiencies across all involved parties, the REE industry can proactively contribute to global sustainability initiatives, and put themselves at the forefront of the fight against climate change. It is important for the industry to show the world, and their downstream customers, that global sustainability is absolutely critical to the continued technological advancements, we want to achieve for the coming generations.

The REE industry is currently being pushed by existing legislature, which has been implemented both in the USA and by the European Union. The Critical Raw Materials Act (CRMA) implemented by the EU puts an increased responsibility on the involved parties in the REE industry, to focus on more sustainable processes and approaches, where recycling will need to play a bigger role. In the industry today there is almost no recycling taking place, as the vast majority of raw materials are virgin raw materials.

The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) which has been implemented in the USA has been implemented with the goal of increased domestic production of minerals for the energy transition, which could potentially reduce the carbon footprint of the industry, by mining and refining raw materials closer to home, however the industry still needs technology to support with this transition, and blockchain technology does that better, than any other current technology available.

Material Traceability vs. Chain of Custody

The current state of play when it comes to tracking material is far removed from the chain of custody systems that exist in the industry today. Adding in the blockchain technology will allow these two processes to be merged in one unified system, where you can track back any piece of material – at any given time, and retrace every step, showing that they chain of custody was never broken for this individual piece of material or product. This trustworthy digital record cannot be changed or amended, and it stand head and shoulders above the current system doesn’t allow for that, as there is not a fully traceable solution that can prove and verify the whereabouts of any material at any given time.


The REE industry stands on the verge of a transformative journey as it embraces the integration of blockchain technology. Leveraging the attributes of transparency, accountability, and automation of the blockchain technology, the industry can directly confront the multifaceted challenges related to supply chain transparency, ethical sourcing, environmental sustainability, and fair industry-wide compensation. In an era where sustainability is driving global strategies, governmental initiatives and the opinion of the global consumer, the blockchain technology offers not only a technological edge but also an ideally suited path for the industry, to foster trust, building stronger loyalty, as well as incentives strong leadership within responsible business practices.

By harnessing the potential of blockchain, the REE industry can position itself as a pioneer not only in technological innovation but also in the realm of sustainable and ethical commerce. The adoption of blockchain technology holds the potential to redefine the industry's narrative, establish new benchmarks for transparency, and drive progress for the entire industry, toward a more responsible and transparent technological landscape. In this context, blockchain technology emerges as a guiding light out of the darkness, leading and urging the REE industry toward a future where technology and sustainability are fully intertwined.