Teck to trace germanium with blockchain
From Red Dog Mine in Alaska to fiber optic cable it goes in Metal Tech News - January 20, 2022
Last updated 2/8/2022 at 2:46pm
Teck Resources Ltd. is piloting a project that utilizes the power of blockchain technology to trace responsibly produced germanium from its Red Dog zinc mine in Northwest Alaska all the way to fiber optic cables that leverage the unique properties of this critical mineral.
From the transistors in quantum computers that are millions of times faster than their classical counterparts to fiber optic cables that send data at the speed of light, germanium is a little-known semiconductor that plays an extremely important role in the technologies behind the future of ultrafast computing and communications.
"The extensive use of germanium for military and commercial applications has made it a critical material in the United States and the rest of the world," the United States Geological Survey penned in a report on critical minerals.
Further details on germanium, its uses, and markets can be read at The quantum states of germanium demand in the Critical Minerals Alliances magazine published by Data Mine North.
Like many of the minerals and metals that have been deemed critical to the U.S., germanium is not mined as a primary metal.
"As a byproduct metal, the supply of germanium is heavily reliant on zinc production," the USGS penned in its report.
Teck's Red Dog mine, the second-largest producer of zinc on Earth, also hosts healthy quantities of byproduct germanium.
As operator of both Red Dog and Trail Operations – a refinery in southern British Columbia that processes the concentrates from Red Dog and other zinc mines – Teck is the largest germanium producer in North America.
The high-quality germanium products produced at Trail are used in the manufacturing of fiber optic cables, high-speed computer chips, quantum computer transistors, solar cells, light-emitting diodes (LEDs), and night vision goggles, to name a few.
With the refinery processing concentrates from other mines, it is hard to track exactly how much, if any, of this germanium comes from Red Dog concentrates.
This situation has created a conundrum for agencies tracking critical minerals.
"Because zinc concentrates are shipped globally and blended at smelters ... the recoverable germanium in zinc reserves cannot be determined," USGS penned in its 2021 mineral commodities report.
With the use of blockchain technology, it will soon be possible to track Red Dog germanium from mine to customer.
Working with DTL Labs, a leading provider of blockchain-enabled technology and enterprise solutions for supply chain management and financing, Teck is piloting a project that will trace germanium from Red Dog through the Trail refinery and to a manufacturer of fiber optic cable.
Over the past decade businesses have identified many uses for blockchain technology, from the settlement of financial records to smart contracts and reliable, transparent traceability of supply chains.
Teck believes that materials traceability and assurance of both origin and handling of the product along the supply chain can play a role in supporting responsible production more broadly for essential metals and minerals.
"Teck is proud to be advancing the first use of blockchain technology to trace the critical mineral germanium from the mine all the way to the customer," said Teck Resources Senior Vice President of Sustainability and External Affairs Marcia Smith. "Ensuring the environmental and social responsibility throughout the metals production chain provides our customers and downstream consumers with the confidence that their products are sourced responsibly."
DLT Lab's DL Asset Track platform is designed to map the germanium supply chain and to provide downstream customer visibility into the chain.
This technology will be used to embed data including information on responsible environmental, social and governance (ESG) practices along the supply chain, such as greenhouse gas emissions, product certifications and responsible production assessments.
"DLT is proud that its DL Asset Track product is being adopted by Teck in setting the standard for an innovative product passport," said DLT Labs CEO Loudon Owen. "This product passport collects, stores, and provides reliable, tamper-proof, and real-time data at every stage in the resource supply chain from end-to-end, including comprehensive information about the provenance of the resources. Certainty of mine of origin, provenance and single source of truth are essential building blocks for an effective ESG program."
This ability to track not only the source of minerals and metals, but also the environmental footprint from mine to customer is expected to be increasingly important to manufacturers seeking to tout the global ESG credentials of the products they produce.