Investigation 31 August 2016 10 1136
Mica is a naturally occurring mineral that is widely used in makeup for its shimmery quality. It makes eyeshadow dazzle and gives foundations a sought-after natural glow. You would be hard-pressed to find a brand of cosmetics that doesn’t use it today. However, its procurement is often illegal, involves child labour and is associated with health and safety risks.
This is the situation in India, where 60% of the world’s mica is produced. The impoverished population of Jharkhand State mine for mica despite it being banned. This is destroying the state’s nature reserve, but the world’s growing interest in mica-based cosmetics means production continues. For many locals it’s their only source of income. Even though there are serious occupational health hazards linked to mica production, whole families work in the industry, including very young children. Not a month goes by without somebody dying in the mines.
Child slave labour is shockingly common here. Forced to work and deprived of education, these kids are left with only one option – to remain stuck forever in this dangerous and underpaid job. While many big cosmetic companies refuse to buy mica directly from illegal mines, they don’t question where the processing plants they shop at get their supplies from. Meanwhile, the vast majority of the mines in Jharkhand are illegal. RT Doc travels to Jharkhand to discover the unsightly side of mica’s glitter.