Terre des Hommes gets important mica players around the table

It is for the first time in the Netherlands that companies from different sectors will work together to eradicate child labour in the mica mines of India. Today, in an initiative of Terre des Hommes, multinationals and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs met to explore the possible ways of working together.


Child labour

Multiple-industry consultation

Every seat was taken. Akzo Nobel, Hema, Kuncai, Philips, Surdashan, Merck, L'Oreal, all companies that import or process mica in their products and have the greatest influence on the mica industry were sitting round  the table. Mica is a mineral that gives a sparkling effect, it has heat retentive and insulating properties. It is used in many products. More than 22,000 children currently work in India’s mica mines.

A program to address the causes

Sander Hanenberg, Marketing Manager and mica Project Manager for Terre des Hommes, presented the  new Terre des Hommes holistic program where companies can work together to shorten the supply chain by reducing the use of intermediaries. The children's rights organization also helps in finding alternative livelihoods for the parents who now take their children to work in the mica mines. In addition, Terre des Hommes educates families about the dangers of child labour and encourages mica miners to work in cooperatives. Hanenberg says: "Together they can negotiate a better price, they now have no idea how much the mica that they have mined is worth."


Mike Tijdink of Kuncai, one of the largest importers of mica, explained how they tackle the problem. Kuncai already entered into  a dialogue with Terre des Hommes previously donating 500,000  Euro to Terre des Hommes to create more child-friendly villages. In addition, it  founded a Indian Kuncai which then  purchased mica  directly from the mica mines. Lastly they allowed  independent auditors to audit and they also  initiated unannounced audits to be done and implemented an annual accountability report. Tijdink: "Only if we work together can we remove child labour from the mica industry. So we invite everyone, especially our business partners, to join us as partners in this important programme run by Terre des Hommes."


Sonia Smits from Philips recounted the experiences they had encountered  in the broader working group whose aim was to clean up the tin supply chain. The main lessons were figuring out the source of the mineral, establishing direct contact with suppliers, pooling of influence with other stakeholders, the indispensable collaboration with the government and NGOs and seeking responsible suppliers.

Cooperation with the government in India

Dirk Jan Koch from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs referred to  the Kinderarbeidfonds a fund that finances initiatives to combat child labour. The Indian government has also been willing to cooperate.

Mica is everywhere

This  cooperative effort has been in response to Terre des Hommes’ ‘Beauty and a Beast’ study into child labour in mica mines in India. The convenient mineral is found in all kinds of products such as: telephones, cosmetics, cables, paint, toasters and car paint. The consumer is constantly surrounded by it.

Child labour in micamines

In the states of Jharkhand and Bihar in India there are over 22,000 children who are  involved in work in the mica mines. They perform heavy physical labour under hazardous conditions. There is a great risk of mine collapse and children are continuously breathing in harmful dust, which can lead to a deadly lung disease (silicosis). Child workers do not attend school, so there is a vicious circle of exploitation. Children and adults that work  in illegal mines are being paid only 45 percent of the income that workers earn in legally operating mines.

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