Stop child labour in mica mines

Terre des Hommes India kinderarbeid mica

Are you aware of the misery behind electronic products, cars and shiny cosmetic products?

Risk of mine collapse, fatal lung diseases, working in the sweltering sun. This is the daily reality for at least 22.000 children who work in India’s mica mines. They don’t go to school but work long days in extremely dangerous mines.

Mica is a wonder mineral. It is shiny, it insulates against electricity and is heat resistant. The substance that gives car paint and cosmetic products their nice shiny, pearly effect and is used in many electronic products and cars.

This child labour must stop immediately. Learn how Terre des Hommes is fighting this serious form of child abuse.

Would you like to learn more about child labour in mica mines, read our mica reports.




What is mica?

Mica is an umbrella term for 37 minerals rooted in the Latin word micare, which means shining and sparkling. It is able to reflect and refract light and is extremely heat-resistant. Mica is used to make products like cosmetics and paints shimmer. But its other extraordinary qualities including perfect cleavage, flexibility, elasticity, chemical inertness, infusibility, low thermal and electrical conductivity, and high dielectric strength explain the wide use of the mineral across many sectors. Mica is particularly essential for the electronics industry and automotive industry.

Where does mica come from?

Mica is mined in several countries around the globe, but especially in India, Madagascar and China. In India about three-quarters of the mica is mined in the regions of Jharkhand and Bihar. These regions produce approximately one-quarter of the world’s total mica production. Only one in 10 mines is legal.

The Jharkhand and Bihar regions are among the poorest in India. The local population is Dalit. They are “untouchables” and are at the bottom of the social ladder. Children are very vulnerable to exploitation due to their weak social position. Child and human trafficking often occurs in these regions. There are also far fewer enrolled children who actually go to school compared to elsewhere in India.

What are the detrimental effects of child labour?

  • Children in mica mines perform heavy physical labour under dangerous conditions. There is a big risk of mine collapse and children continuously breathe in dust, which can cause a deadly lung disease (silicosis). 
  • Child labourers do not go to school, which creates a vicious circle of exploitation.

How many children work in the mica mines?

During a field study 22.000 children were physically counted when approximately 40 percent of all mica villages in Jharkhand and Bihar were visited. Indian law prohibits children under 14 from working in mines, but this is not monitored in the illegal mining industry.

Does mica from India make its way to The Netherlands?

Yes. The chain begins with the extraction of mica in the mines of Jharkhand and Bihar. This mica is bought by intermediaries and resold to processing companies. From here, small amounts of legal mica comes into contact with a lot of illegally mined mica and is later mixed. These companies process the mica and sell it to companies who use it as an additive to paint and cosmetics, for example, such as Akzo Nobel,  HEMA and Ahold.

Would you like to learn more about child labour in mica mines, download our reports.




Child exploitation in the mica production process is one of the worst forms of child labour. Parents are unable to feed their children or provide them with medical care due to extreme poverty and have no other choice than to allow their children to work in order to earn more money for the family. Children cannot go to school and have a change of a better future. This must end as soon as possible. Children must have the chance to go to school so that they break the cycle of poverty. Parents must receive help in negotiating fair prices for their mica, finding alternative sources of income and in accessing government welfare schemes.

This is why Terre des Hommes is asking companies to quickly clean up their supply chain and show their corporate social responsibility by offering their help to children and their families in Jharkhand and Bihar. And if companies don’t make haste, the government should intervene.

Would you like to learn more about child labour in mica mines, download our reports.


What we do

Terre des Hommes employs the most comprehensive approach possible in order to bring about the greatest possible effect and achieve our goal.

Children out of the mines and back to school

It is vital for children not to have to work but to be able to go to school. Terre des Hommes is working together with local partner organisation the Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation (KSCF) to create child-friendly villages. At the moment Terre des Hommes works at 20  (clusters of) villages in Jharkhand and Bihar that have been certified as child-friendly. Children are protected in these regions, can go to school and are educated on their rights.

Alternative income for parents

When children stop working, the family income must be supplemented in some other way. This is why Terre des Hommes is introducing alternative livelihood for families who miss income when their children go to school.

Terre des Hommes wishes to provide information to families and companies in the entire region about the harmful effects of child labour in general and the consequences of mica mining specifically.


We appeal to the global private sector

Terre des Hommes is appealing to companies to take responsibility and to implement measures to make mica production child-labour- free.

Support programmes for families must be aligned with government policy and should not be a substitute (trade-off) for the companies’ responsibility to mitigate negative social impact.

We appeal to the Dutch government

The Dutch government should promote cooperation between companies within the mica chain.

Terre des Hommes is advocating that companies be obligated to conduct a risk analysis (including monitoring and sanctions) of child labour, pay fair prices and living wages to mica workers. The Due Diligence Child Labour law already passed the Parliament. We hope the Senate soon passes the law too. The Dutch government should encourage other countries to eradicate child labour.

Lobbying the Indian government

Terre des Hommes believes that the Indian government should ensure that all children between six and fourteen years old can go to school. Free of charge and close to home.

Terre des Hommes is lobbying the government for development programmes in the Jharkhand and Bihar regions and for legalisation of the mica mines.

Terre des Hommes is working with local partners and local government towards eradicating child labour, making communities aware of the rights of children and achieving school attendance.

Terre des Hommes is asking the Indian government to offer alternative, sustainable forms of income to families who are currently working in the illegal mica mining industry.


Community and children

Child friendly villages

Our local partner organisation Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation (KSCF) created 20 child friendly villages with the help of TDH; villages in which children are aware of their rights and know how to claim them. They are protected by the community against child labour.

Enhancement of income of the mica collector communities

We started working with Association for Stimulating Know how (ASK) to enhance the income of the Mica Collector Communities.  ASK works towards mobilizing and organizing the mica workers in collector groups and strengthening their positioning to negotiate a fair price for their mica. Furthermore, ASK focuses on enhancing income through exploring alternative livelihood opportunities and facilitating access to government schemes

Stakeholder-led road-map

We work with the Centre for Responsible Business (CRB)to develop a locally owned, stakeholder-led road-map for safe and sustainable mica mining for Jharkhand. This would subsequently lead to a localised ‘private sector development strategy’ covering the supply chain and set in motion a process towards its operationalisation involving the identified key actors in India.

Promotion of child rights

We work together in a consortium with three local partner organizations; Bhartiya Kisan Sangh (BKS)​, Rastriya Jharkhand Seva Sansthan (RJSS)​ and the Jago Foundation to eliminate the child labour practice in 22 villages of mica belt through promotion of child rights, empowering the families to take care of the wellbeing of children and sensitising different stakeholders to protect the interest of the children living in the mica mining area. This is a comprehensive initiative to address child rights by changing the behaviour of all stakeholders to work towards holistic development of children.


  • Terre des Hommes contributed to the lobby towards the Indian government. In 2017 the Indian government started legalising some of the mica dump sites.
  • The Dutch government is actively involved in discussions with Dutch companies to conduct due diligence and to fight child labour in their supply chains.

Private sector engagement

Responsible Mica Initiative

TDH’s research about the magnitude of child labour in the Indian mica mines and the lack of transparency in the supply chains of companies involved, stimulated several companies to take their initiatives a step further. This resulted in the Responsible Mica Initiative (RMI) which was first presented in Paris in February 2017. The RMI aims to implement responsible sourcing practices, eradicate child labour and unacceptable working conditions in the Indian mica supply chain by joining forces across industries associated with the mica supply chain and in partnership with local stakeholders. Terre des Hommes is one of the founding members of the initiative and a member of the board.

In November 2017 the initiative has grown to a multi stakeholder initiative with 38 organisations from various industries. The RMI developed a five-year roadmap, to pursue three main objectives:

  • Implement fair, responsible and sustainable good practices and increase traceability all along the Indian mica supply chain,
  • Empower local community to ensure long lasting change thanks to the implementation of inclusive and holistic empowerment programs,
  • Build a legal and liveable environment for local communities by working hand-to-hand with the Indian government.

National ‘Fund against child labour’  

Philips,  Kuncai and TDH  applied for subsidy from the national Fund against child labour. This request was granted. This alliance will work to strengthen the position of the child, to organize mica collectors with the aim of enforcing fair wages and actively lobby with governments and companies to pursue a clean supply chain.