About Mica Industry

Mica, a mineral abundant in Bihar and Jharkhand, is widely used in various industries across the globe. The automotive, electronics, chemical, and cosmetics industries are some of the top consumers of mica.

However, the darkest secret of the mica industry is the involvement of child labour in procuring the mineral. Notably, mica mining was banned in Jharkhand in 1980 when the Forest Conservation Act came into effect. However, illegal mining continues to be a concerning issue in the region.

The Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation (KSCF) has been addressing the serious problem of child labour and exploitation in the mica regions of Bihar and Jharkhand since 2005. Our vision of a child labour-free mica industry can be achieved if we keep children at the centre, involve relevant stakeholders, engage the government at all levels, and rope in the industry bodies and civil society. We aim to unite and leverage the collective power of all stakeholders locally, nationally and globally to end all forms of child labour in the region.

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 area at risk of exploitation and losing their childhoods. Widespread poverty and impoverishment have led to large numbers of children dropping out of school to supplement their family incomes by working in illegal mines under inhuman conditions.

Robbed of their childhood, armed with tools and collection baskets, children are often involved in collecting mica embedded deep in the ground as they can easily access rathole mines. With every hammer strike, however, the danger of being buried alive due to a mine collapse only gets aggravated. Many deaths go unreported.

Mica collection and trade are among the most important sources of income in northern Jharkhand, including Koderma and Giridih districts. However, Jharkhand suffers from what is sometimes termed a ‘resource curse’. Bihar and Jharkhand account for 50% of India’s mineral resources and a large proportion of their population is below the poverty line. The local communities are primarily dependent on mica scrap collection for livelihood.

The villages in these states are extremely remote and have rough terrain, inadequate transportation facilities, presence of political insurgencies, and communities are living in impoverished conditions due to meagre earnings from the mica collection and the absence of alternate livelihood opportunities. Children are most vulnerable to various forms of exploitation and violations of their rights due to the lack of development and cultural and social practices of the communities. Child labour, child marriages, discontinuation of education, and trafficking for forced labour are some of the common forms of child rights violations in these mica villages.

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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