This is one of the statements made by the children that SOMO interviewed on behalf of Terre des Hommes in the context of the investigation into the situation of child labour in the mica mines. The stories and the field research confirm that starting a project in Madagascar to tackle child labour is really necessary. Just like we did in India, where more than 7,000 children go to school again.
Countless products contain mica; from paint to cosmetics and cars to laptops. The biggest buyers of mica are the electronics and automotive industries. A study from 2018 particularly emphasized the need to further investigate the conditions in the mining of mica in Madagascar. It is one of the countries with the greatest risk of violating children's rights in mica mining and is the third biggest exporter of mica in the world.
The aim of the research was to gain insight into the situation of child labour in the mica mines in Madagascar and how it makes its way into everyday products. How do the children and their families live? What are the working conditions and what are the root causes of child labour?
A brief overview of the most important outcomes of the research:
Mica exports from Madagascar have increased enormously in the last 10 years and in 2017, Madagascar was the third biggest mica exporter in the world.
A rough estimate by SOMO, states that around 11,000 children work in the mica sector in Madagascar. Terre des Hommes suspects that the actual number is higher and the organisation will therefore conduct further research locally.
There are many children working in the mica mining area who are exposed to very fine mica dust particles that lead to coughing and could cause serious lung diseases.
Of the 13 mica mines visited, only two had valid permits, indicating that the sector is not well-regulated leading to illegal mining.
Children are exposed to harsh working conditions; they suffer from back pain, headaches due to heat and lack of water, damaged hands and feet every day.
Lack of money is the main reason that children are pushed to work in the mica mines.
A day of work in the mica mining industry yields between 27 cents - 3 euros (the average cost of living is 91 cents per day).
All downstream clients of Chinese importers of mica from Madagascar (and India) are exposing themselves to the risk of being linked to child labour in their supply chain.
There is an urgent need for international companies, sourcing mica and mica-based products as well as the Malagasy government to take responsibility for the problematic conditions in the mica sector and for contributing to improving the fulfilment of children's rights.
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The research is funded by Fund Against Child Labour (FBK) through the Rijksdienst voor Ondernemend Nederland (RVO).
NBC News made an impressive documentary about the children who work for pennies in the Mica industry in Madagascar. Watch the documentary here.