Billionaire Potanin Launches Blockchain Platform

Russian billionaire Vladimir Potanin, one of the country’s richest people, has introduced his long-awaited blockhain platforms, to be used by his business conglomerate, Forbes Russia reports.

The digital tokens will be used for buying metals, book air tickets and transfer ski passes from Potanin’s companies, which include palladium and nickel giant Nornickel.

Potanin has long signaled plans to start crypto tokens for metals, but can now expand the project to the consumer side of his empire after getting central bank approval last week. The aim of the platform is to speed up transactions and reduce paperwork and interaction between customers and companies.

“To some extent, Russia appears ahead of many other jurisdictions in terms of digitalization,” Potanin, Russia’s richest man, said in an interview near Moscow. “The central bank gave us a very wide mandate.”

The commodities industry is looking at digital trading systems using ledger technology to cut costs and administration and track materials through the supply chain. The tech and digital currencies are also being used more widely for things like renting cars or voting on soccer-club decisions, although blockchain is yet to take off on a large scale.

The platform, called Atomyze, will also be available in the U.S. and Switzerland, but limited to companies and not individuals. It’s expected to start by year-end once a Russian law on digital financial assets comes into force and after further approvals abroad.

For Potanin, the biggest impact could be on metals. He said last year that crypto tokens may eventually account for a fifth of sales at Norilsk Nickel, the world’s biggest palladium and refined nickel producer.

Norilsk Nickel will initially test tokens backed by palladium, cobalt, and copper and plans to eventually expand to other metals, Atomyze said in a statement on Tuesday. Companies testing the platform include Trafigura Group, Traxys, and Umicore.