Mica is a group of mineral that can be found in a large variety of consumer goods and industry materials, from cosmetics to car paint, electronic components and construction materials.
It is used for a large range of functions, from pearlescent pigment for cosmetics and car paint to component of small electrical households and cables or functional filler in construction materials, rubbers and oil-drilling fluids.
Mica is a key raw material for numerous industrial and consumer goods sectors, with a global demand forseen to increase in the coming years
cosmetics and personal care
About 25% of the world production of mica comes from illegal collection in North-East India, where more than 20.000 children are working in extremely harsh conditions to support their family.
Working conditions are most of the time very harsh, inhaling silica dust responsible for the development of severe lung diseases or exposed to potentially deadly accidents such as the collapse of informal pits. That is why India, and in particular the districts of Bihar and Jharkhand, represents a priority zone to tackle the major socio-economic issues associated with mica collection.
India is one of the largest producer of mica, mainly collected informally from the top soil by local families, using simple hand tools. A majority of this informal collection is located in the North-eastern districts of Bihar and Jharkhand. Because of the remoteness and lack of vital resources of this area, local populations mainly rely on mica collection to maintain a livelihood.
Because of a lack of control and traceability, mica from unknown origin – so potentially collected by children or in unacceptable working conditions – can infiltrate the supply chain.
The mica supply chain is complex and globalized, involving several middlemen, processors and traders on different continents between the mine and the end user. Insufficient control, informal systems or malevolent practices still significantly disrupt the integrity of the global traceability process.
But there is hope: impactful solutions have been developed in India from the past 10 years, initiated by local NGOs, ingredient manufacturers and leading cosmetic companies through the NRSC and its partners.
Several projects are currently being implemented on the field, such as BBA “Child-friendly” villages or Merck and Sudarshan traceability and transparency improvement plans. Moreover, several on-field studies, research and workshops have been carried out through the years together with local stakeholders and communities (socio-economic diagnostics, supply chain mapping, impact assessments, etc.).
It is time to join forces and scale-up models and solutions that have proven successful : together, we do have the means and solutions to eradicate child labour and unacceptable working conditions in the Indian mica supply chain!