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For large companies that use mica in their products, RMI has become a marker of how products are ethically obtained. This stimulated a thriving industry in which junior mining companies operated on government-approved leases. At the peak of the industry in the 1970s, Koderma and Giridih were home to more than 500 mines and produced more than 17,000 tons of mica. In 2019, India exported more than $37 million (S$49 million) worth of mica powder, according to the World Bank. Given the huge quantities bought and traded, it can be impossible to track exactly where a brand`s mica comes from. Rai said his job as an inn cleaner pays 5,000 rupees ($68) a month, but now he has been lucky enough to earn 50 rupees a day selling mica collected outside the mines that closed in the 1980s, amid laws limiting deforestation and emerging as alternatives to natural mica. But as the pandemic pushes more and more families into mica, local residents, researchers and activists have voiced concerns about the failure of government and the private sector to regulate the often deadly trade in abandoned mines and create other jobs. Thousands of miners working illegally in the country`s mica mines carry this burden, away from the bright lights of cosmetic counters. Her eldest daughter, Karishma Kumari Birhor, has been picking mica since she was five years old – out of necessity. The more hands there are at work, the more likely it is that the family will have food on the table. The illegal trade in mica waste has been an open secret in Jharkhand since 1980, when mica mining was banned by environmental laws. However, a global appetite for the mineral and its richness in smoking areas has kept the practice unregulated.

When industries were involved, mica mines stretched more than 70 feet deep, sometimes cutting into hilly terrain to extract layers and blocks of minerals stuck between rocks. India was one of the largest exporters of mica, which was widely used as natural insulation in the manufacture of artillery and electronic devices. MUMBAI, India (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – When India went into lockdown last March and Tota Rai lost his cleaning job at the Surat textile centre, he knew working in the illegal mica mining industry at home was his only option. Mica`s place in Jharkhand`s mining laws is complicated. Although the extraction of mica is prohibited, its status is changed after its manufacture. It is not unlikely that the number of children working with their parents in mica mines has increased in Jharkhand,” Satyaki Ganguly, a member of the ambitious Giridih district, told ThePrint. Each kilogram of mica scrap costs seven rupees (S$0.13). On a good day, his family hopes to earn about 150 rupees.

L`Oreal and Merck said they were aware of the hazardous conditions and the risk of child labour, but continued to source Indian mica so as not to “further weaken the situation in the region”. In January, at least three cases of mine break-ins were reported in Jharkhand`s Koderma district. It is estimated that 10 to 20 people die each month in such accidents in the mica belt of the north-east of the country. “Mica is our only hope for survival. I just want to be allowed to pick mica,” he said by phone from his mud hut in an area where even the roadside soil sparkles with minerals. Locally called mica dhibra tailings are freely available in the mud around mine sites. A kilo of mica residue can be sold for 3 to 15 rupees, depending on the quality. A full day`s work earns workers between 150 and 250 rupees. Without mica, entire communities in India and Madagascar would be pushed into extreme poverty. The moral dilemma of whether or not to use mica is obvious, and finding a solution to the problem is a challenge.

This is the first time Shibra workers have unionized. We have written to the secretary of the mining department and the CM asking them to accept our proposal,” said Kanshiwar Bharti, a mica scrap dealer and president of the cooperative. âWe are ready to pay taxes or duties if necessary. We just want a seat at the table so we can keep some control over the work that affects our livelihood. » Mica: A mineral that can be ground into sparkling powders and is found in everything from eye shadow to lip gloss to foundation. Cosmetic companies appreciate mica for its properties: fragile, superfine and naturally present in different colors. But for every reported accident, many more are hidden for one big reason: it`s illegal to extract mica from land under the Forest Conservation Act, which came into force in 1980 in an effort to protect India`s forests. “That`s why it`s important that people get permission to farm legally, because it`s the only livelihood option.” Simply boycotting products containing mica is not the right answer. Instead, it is important to empower children and their parents, educate them about the importance of education, and provide them with vocational training and skills that will enable them to find work elsewhere. This would reduce their dependence on illegal mica mining and allow Indian and Malagasy children to have a happy childhood without exploitative work. RMI, whose roughly 60 members include cosmetics company L`Oréal and pharmaceutical and chemical giant Merck KGaA, raised about 880,000 euros ($1.1 million) last year — 30,000 euros less than in 2019 — to fund projects in dozens of villages in India`s mica belt.

Back in Jharkhand, demand for mica has not diminished and the state government is pushing for mining to become one of its economic growth initiatives.