About Child Labour Free Mica

Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation (KSCF) is addressing the multi-dimensional problems of child labour and exploitation in the mica mining districts of Bihar and Jharkhand. Child labour free mica is within our grasp if we tackle this issue by keeping children at the center, involving relevant stakeholders and engaging government at all levels, civil society and industry bodies. We aim to unite and leverage the collective power of all stakeholders locally, nationally and globally to end all child labour in the region by 2025.

Working through the innovative Bal Mitra Gram™ (Child Friendly Village) model, we are working to ensure the well-being of vulnerable and marginalized children subjected to widespread exploitation by bringing them under an ever-expanding safety net.

We work closely with local communities and different stakeholders at national and international levels to co-create and launch initiatives to address unique challenges of India’s mica mining belt.

Besides addressing pressing issues including the lack of school infrastructure and clean drinking water, we are working on the ground to ensure children are not deprived of learning and are not forced into mica mining by providing them opportunities to grow as leaders and raise their voice against issues that impact them adversely.

Not only are we ensuring free and quality education for all children in the mica mining regions of Jharkhand and Bihar but also empowering children to take democratic action to secure their rights. They are empowered to emerge as strong voices against all forms of child exploitation. Our participatory child-centered community development approach is ensuring community ownership and sustainable change in the long term.

A long-term goal of KSCF and the communities is to find alternative and sustainable livelihood opportunities for parents of children living in the area. We are constantly assessing the ground situation and working to find solutions. Through our holistic approach of child and community empowerment, we are working to end child labour in mica mining by 2025.

Child Labour Crisis in the Mica Mining Belt

The thriving mica industry in the states of Jharkhand and Bihar has put thousands of children in the are at risk of exploitation and losing their childhoods. Pronounced poverty and impoverishment has led to children dropping out of school in large numbers to supplement their family incomes by working in illegal mines under inhuman conditions.

Robbed of schoolbooks, armed with tools and collection baskets, children are often used to mine mica that is found deep in the ground due to their small stature. With every hammer strike however, the danger of being buried alive due to a mine collapse only gets aggravated. Deprived of basic rights, picking ‘dhibra’ or mica waste becomes a primary source of livelihood.

Recurring illnesses, food insecurity and malnutrition, vulnerability to exploitation and heightened risk of trafficking puts children in danger every single day. Despite this, children and adults are paid meagre amounts while working in hazardous conditions just to ensure their family’s survival.

According to Lucintel Global Management Consulting & Market Research (2020), the global mica market is expanding and is expected to reach an estimated $709 million market size by 2025. This growth is fueled by the growth of electronics, construction, pigment including personal care product industries.

It has been noted that the price paid per kilo of mica has over the years been reduced and this reduction in price has increased during the COVID-19 crisis. Under present circumstances, safe working conditions for adults must be accorded top priority since health is accorded least importance by local contractors employing labourers for mining purposes.

What is Mica

Mica is a group of silicate minerals that are physically and chemically similar which can be split into thin elastic plates. Mica’s physical, chemical, thermal, mechanical and electrical properties make it a highly sought mineral in electronics, automobiles, paint and cosmetic industries throughout the world. The global mica market valued at USD 567 million in 2018 is expected to reach around USD 727 million by 2025.

The History of Mica Mining in India

Human use of mica dates back to prehistoric times. Until the 19th Century, large crystals of mica were quite rare and expensive due to limited supply in Europe. However, their prices dramatically dropped when large reserves were found and mined in Africa, India and South America during the early 19th century.

According to Indian Forest Act, 1927, mica along with other rocks and minerals found in the forest were called forest produce. In 1947- 48, the production of mica in India was 772 tonnes which increased to about 10,000 tonnes within three years. The rapid growth in production continued until 1960-61 which saw a record production of 28,347 tonnes.

According to Indian Forest Act, 1927, mica along with other rocks and minerals found in the forest were called forest produce. In 1947- 48, the production of mica in India was 772 tonnes which increased to about 10,000 tonnes within three years. The rapid growth in production continued until 1960-61 which saw a record production of 28,347 tonnes.

However, in 1980, the Forest (Conservation) Act declassified mica as forest produce which led to 700 mines with over 20,000 workers to shut down. The industry, which was facing a recession due to the collapse of the USSR, the biggest consumer of mica, was on the brink of collapse. These events created an economic vacuum where workers dependent on the mica industry were left without any livelihoods.

In 1961 there were 432 legal mica mines operating in Bihar (which included Jharkhand until November 2000); by 1980 the number had decreased to 147, and in 1986 there were only 73 legal mica mines left in the area.

The mica mining industry saw a revival in the early 2000’s, when mica gained mileage as being an environment friendly and natural mineral. The varied chemical properties of mica has led to its increased use in various sectors including construction, beauty, automobile, paints and electronic industry.

Mica Mining Belt of India

Jharkhand and Bihar: Key Facts

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