Children as young as five make up more than half the number of miners scavenging for mica in Madagascar, according to a leading child rights group.
A year-long investigation by Terre des Hommes Netherlands found that at least 11,000 children between the ages of five and 17 are employed in quarrying and processing the shimmery, heat-resistant mineral, which is used in everything from makeup to car paint and hugely prevalent in the automotive and electronics industry.
Children comprise as much as 62% of the overall mining workforce, researchers found, with miners descending deep into the ground to cut the mica by hand.
The work is dangerous, with children complaining of aching muscles, open sores and respiratory problems, according to the report, published this week by Terre des Hommes and the Dutch Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations.
“The fact that more than half of all the miners are under-age is shocking and should be seen as a global call to action,” said Jos de Voogd of Terre des Hommes.