“Legalising the mica mining industry is an important step forward in the process of eradicating child labour,” says Aysel Sabahoglu, child rights officer from Terre des Hommes Netherlands. “The positive impact of this new policy however depends on the conditions for the auction process: to whom will the Indian government auction the mica sites to? And what do the buyers have to do in return?”
Some of the critical questions remaining are:
- Will there be strict conditions to which buyers need to comply (on fair wages and decent working conditions)?
- Will the legal mines be frequently audited to see if they comply with the strict conditions?
- Will the buyers be obliged to take their social responsibility and make sure there is a trickle-down effect of the profits to the local community?
- Will the legalisation be done in collaboration with the local authorities?
- Will the natural environment still be protected against harmful exploitation?
Fair working conditions
If adults will earn fair wages and are able to work under decent conditions (safe and healthy) than adult workers will have the ability to improve their lives and send their children to school instead of taking them to the mines.
If there are strict conditions it’s essential to audit and inspect whether companies still comply to these conditions. Sabahoglu: “However when mines are legalised at least auditing becomes a possibility.”
Sometimes foreign companies buy sites, import their own people, build their own villages and the majority of money made will flow out of the country. In such a situation the local community can at best profit from new infrastructure. However if the buying party will be obliged to socially invest in return, then the local community can profit as well from the legalisation.
Involve the local community
Mica is a very wanted clean mineral and Indian people should have a say over its natural resources. Therefore it’s very important to work together with the local community. This collaboration should start as soon as possible, so also with the start of the legalisation.
Terre des Hommes Netherlands is very aware of the importance of a healthy natural environment for children. Therefore it is important that no damage will be done to nature by legalising the mica mines.
Terre des Hommes in India
In India,Terre des Hommes fights among others against the exploitation of over 20,000 children who work under dangerous conditions in the mica mines. In the regions of Jharkland and Bihar, Terre des Hommes makes villages child-friendly: villages where children are not involved in child labour, go to school and their parents are aware of the risks posed by child labour. The legalisation of the micamines is a hopeful sign, but not enough to stop child labor. Terre des Hommes will continue to closely monitor the situation in India.