Child Labor in Mica Mining: The Dark Side of Cosmetics Industry
It’s pretty, shimmery, and a symbol of expression and freedom for makeup. Yet, on the other hand, mining and extracting Mica is risky and dangerous for labor, especially for young children. Moreover, mica mining deprives these young workers of freedom and the right to have basic rights and joy like any other child on earth. For you, it might be freedom and convenience, but not for them.
A billion-dollar industry, the cosmetics industry has thousands of corporations and companies providing beauty treatments and makeup products to consumers around the world. The cosmetics industry is a haven of creativity when it comes to creating standards of beauty and attracting consumers through commercials that use tactics and the latest trends. There is nothing more flashy, colorful, or representative of highlighting the beauty of the consumer, than the cosmetics industry.
However, the process behind those things is even more heartbreaking. This vibrant and shimmering eyeshadow is made of mica, a mineral name given to a group of minerals that are physically and chemically similar, a.k.a sheet silicates because they are layered. It is relatively light and relatively soft, with sheets and flakes of mica being flexible. Mica does not conduct electricity and is heat resistant. There are 37 different types of mica minerals, and the most common include purple lepidolite, black biotite, brown phlogopite, and clear muscovite. Furthermore, mica has a wide range of colors such as purple, rosy, silver-gray (lepidolite); dark green, brown, black (biotite); yellowish-brown, greenish-white (phlogopite); colorless, transparent (muscovite). Other than being used for cosmetics, mica is primarily used in the paint industry for pigment extenders, in the well-drilling industry as an additive to drilling mud, and in the electronic and electrical industries. (Mineral Education Coalition)
Unfortunate Children Whose Fates Are Given to Mica Mines
As the cosmetics industry is thriving and gaining billions of dollars year by year, both the supply and demand of makeup products duplicate as well. Mica is mostly found in India at Bihar and in the Nellore district of Madras. Over 50% of the mica used today comes from these two regions. (Cole)
Mica mineral resources make India the world’s leading country in mining the mineral for cosmetics. Therefore, the issue of working children who jump deep into the mine to extract micas has been around for years and has contributed substantially to this industry. The first thing that pops into your mind might be: why are children chosen? The answer is the use of child workers is easier for mica mining as most of the mines are small. Hence, children who are short and small are used to jump down to the mine for micas due to their advantage.
According to World Vision, there are 22,00 children in India working as mica miners, some of them are at the age of four and five. Also, a 2016 investigation by Reuters showed that seven children had been killed in mica mines in India for just two months. The immoral results of mica mining are still undercover so that this industry can still make its money flow without interruption. (Kavy, 2019) The report of the Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO) has pointed out the risks of child labor in the mineral supply chain violate basic children’s rights and list out the downsides including children’s loss of access to education, physical activities, healthcare, adequate housing, and other facilities. Children would be exposed to pollution and other environmental degradation and dangers which is risky for their lives and well-being. Moreover, the mining area is low access to food security and safety can lead these children to malnutrition. And most unfairly, low wage and poor working conditions would impact their life security. (Schipper & Cowan, 2016)
Big names in the cosmetics industry have used India’s mica, like L’Oréal, Estee Lauder, MAC, Rimmel, Bobbi Brown, Clinique, Too Faced, etc. They are the biggest buyers of India’s mica mining and regularly unethical sourced mica. (Kavy, 2019)
Who Would Stand for The Children?
It is a huge unfairness for children on the other side of the world to live and develop freely and rightly at their age, versus children on the remaining side who have already worked for hours to hours to make money for their living. The government and organization have not regulated a strict ban and punishment to any business which has violated the human rights and legal working age. The bottom line is the profit despite the violation of business ethics and morality. It is a shame for this industry to polish their image but behind that, they would overdo anything immorally for the money, MONEY.
In order to stop child labor in any product we buy, I believe the direct action is to not buy it and seek information about its origins and business principles, which can support innocent children who are supposed to go to school, take part in healthy physical activities, and eat healthy food. Most importantly, to have a wonderful childhood. However, it seems too good to be true when compared to reality. As humans achieve something and want to expand it further, their villain nature grows. Does there exist a hero who would fight for justice and rights, and stop the abuse of unfair issues such as child labor who sacrifices their lives to look good? In the real world, children need heroes. And, it starts with each one of us.