“Mica is also referred to as the ‘magic mineral’ due to its sparkling characteristic and because it is a part of so many daily used products: electrical & electronics products, cars and shiny cosmetics,” says Thangam Ponpandi, country director India at Terre des Hommes (TdH). But for thousands of children who work in the mica mines, this mineral is not so magic. Day in day out they mine this raw material and risk of getting fatal lung diseases. They work in the sweltering sun and they don’t go to school. This must stop. ImpactCity is bringing together a coalition of frontrunners in the impact ecosystem to find innovative solutions to this challenge.
Thangam: “We are very much open to pilot any innovation that will make a positive impact in the lives of these children.”
Studies show that the high-quality mica is mined in India, in the region Jharkhand. It is relatively easy to collect mica. Contrary to other raw materials like gold, you do not have to dig mines deep under the ground.
All the mica mines are illegal. Since 1986, the Indian Government has not renewed any licenses for mica mines. This means that the mines and the workers find themselves outside the protection of Government regulations. This illegality is a big problem when increasing the transparency of the mica value chain.
Traceability in the first phase of the value chain is challenging. Because of its illegality it is difficult to trace the mica raw material. “But there is good news,” says Thangam. “Nobody has attempted to create transparency and everybody is interested to learn. Terre des Hommes has very good relations and access to 102 villages where people mine mica. These villages represent approximately 25% of all mica that is mined.
At least 200.000 households in the region are involved in the collection process of mica. Most of the times, families are working for three generations in the mining of mica. Their mining skills are ‘inborn’. The villages where the workers live are remote and lack daycare facilities. As a result, the children accompany their parents to the mica mines from an early age on. Also when the kids go to primary school they go to their parents when their school day ends at 1 pm.
When children finish primary school, they often have to travel to another village to attend secondary school. It is often a difficult trip, especially for girls. As a result, the drop-out rate after primary school is enormous. Children are very vulnerable to exploitation due to their weak social position. It is the ambition of TdH to support them to stay in school so that they can develop themselves and create better, economically sound future.
To realize this ambition, many hurdles need to be overcome. First of all, it is essential to identify and track these children. It is a challenge because these kids don’t have a birth certificate and therefore do not benefit from any government services and protection.
Thangam: “We are keen on piloting new, innovative solutions to increase transparency in the mica value chain and to help child workers get back to school.”
Let’s get to work
ImpactCity is bringing together a coalition of frontrunners in the impact ecosystem to find innovative solutions to this challenge. Specialists from Hack the Planet, ZINC, Deloitte will join forces with Terre des Hommes and ImpactCity to stop child labor in Mica mines.