Impact of the mica supply chain on children’s rights from the Malagasy mines to the international product line.
Countless products from paints to cosmetics and from cars to laptops contain mica, albeit mostly in relatively small volumes. The biggest buyers of mica are the electronics and automotive industries. Since the publication of reports by Terre des Hommes and the Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO) in 2016 and 2018, awareness has grown about the harsh conditions and the suffering of children in the depths of illegal mica mines in India.
The 2016 study estimated that in the Indian states of Jharkhand and Bihar 22,000 children were involved in mica mining. The research concluded that industries and companies using mica sourced from this country are linked to the worst forms of child labour.
Together with key stakeholders from the private sector and the government, Terre des Hommes works towards better livelihoods for mica communities in India. As a result, more and more corporates – such as those that are part of the Responsible Mica Initiative, but also individual companies and industry initiatives – are trying to address this problem in their supply chains.
The 2018 study particularly stressed the need to further examine the conditions in mica mining in Madagascar. It is one of the countries with the greatest risk of violation of children’s rights in mica mining, alongside India, China, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Brazil.
The red flags for Madagascar included evidence of the use of child labour in mica mines in the south of the country and suspected illegal mica mining. Moreover, Madagascar has become increasingly important as an exporter of mica.
The study found that the country was the fourth largest mica exporter worldwide in 2015, and that since 2015 it had even overtaken India as the biggest global exporter of sheet mica, the grade of mica that is used extensively in the electronics and automotive industries.