Mining mica: can the industry overturn its legacy of exploitation? – by Heidi Vella (Mining Technology – January 28, 2020)

Mica, a shimmering, heat resistant mineral used in everything from car paint to make-up, is in large-part produced by artisanal miners in India and Madagascar, where child labour and unsafe conditions are rife. We find out what can be done to rid the commodity of its unethical origins.

Eight-year-old Frederic works morning or afternoon shifts, depending on his school schedule, sorting mica alongside his elder brother. His hands are marked by traces, wounds and scars caused by the repetitive task of removing the calcite.

Thirteen-year-old Felicia, who has never attended school, works Monday to Sunday for a sorting company. The money she earns helps support her mother and eight siblings, but is having a negative impact on her health. These are just two stories of child labour in the illegal mica mining sector of Madagascar detailed by a new report by NGOs Terre des Hommes and SOMO.

Researchers from the organisations found that, despite ongoing initiatives, entire families are routinely working in the extraction and processing of the mica, which can be found in hundreds of Western products. Overall, they cautiously estimate that around 22,000 people work in the informal sector in Madagascar, of which at least half are minors.

Mica is the name for a group of different minerals that form in distinct layers. The commodity is particularly coveted for its heat resistant and highly reflective properties and can be found in everything from paints to soil conditioners to make-up and smartphones.

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