Child Labor in Mica Mines

Saavani Thigale

Our everyday products contain a highly demanded mineral, mica, which is mined by children in Jharkhand, India. They start working at the age of 4 and are stuck in life threatening situations. They work 8 hours a day, 7 days a week, only to earn 30 cents a day, barely enough to feed themselves – all, to serve multi-million dollar industries like the makeup industry. 

When I was a little girl, I remember walking on mica-rich soil as it sparkled against the sun. I picked some up and instantly fell in love with the mineral. Ten years later, I saw a documentary by Refinery29, “The Makeup Industry’s Darkest Secret is in your Makeup Bag” which opened my eyes. It was truly heartbreaking to see child labor happening in my home country. 

Our everyday products – Toothpastes, paints, printing inks, makeup, moisturizers, hair dryers, and 18,000 different parts in our cars – contain mica. While we perform many activities throughout the day that utilize mica, children are still working around the clock in the mines. This inspired “Brought to you by a child”. My exhibit, clock, and book are aimed at making people aware of where their products come from.

While an obvious solution seems to be pulling mica completely out of products, it doesn’t solve the issue. These children depend on mica for their livelihood and will be left worse off if mica mining is abandoned. You and I, as everyday product users, must pressure brands that have contributed to the current situation to clean up their supply chain and become involved in social empowerment programs for these communities. We must donate to organizations like Bachpan Bachao Aandolan, to fund children’s education. Until then, these children will continue to work and only hope to get an education one day.