India is to legalise the mining of mica, a sparkly mineral used in eyeshadows and car paint, in a bid to cut the number of children who labour – and often die – to produce it.
The announcement comes nearly a year after a series of Guardian investigations into mica found that crippling poverty forces many families and their children to mine the highly prized mineral, with as many as 20,000 children believed to be working in the mines, about 90% of which are illegal.
A later investigation by Thomson Reuters Foundation found that at least seven children had died in just two months as they scavenged for the mineral in illegal mines. Activists lauded the decision to legalise mica mining, but warned that high poverty levels meant the move was unlikely to stop child labour.
Two states in eastern India, Jharkhand and Bihar, account for roughly 25% of the global production of mica, which is used by the cosmetics, building and automotive industries in various products. Household and luxury brands including L’Oréal, Estée Lauder, Rimmel, Merck, BMW, Vauxhall and Audi have all been linked to India’s mica mines.
Jharkhand’s mines commissioner, Aboobacker Siddique, told Reuters that the authorities would first tackle the disused mines and dumps of scrap mica, where children scavenge alongside their families for the mineral. The government would then auction off the disused mines and other reserves, with the intention of keeping out children and their families.
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