According to Lexi Lexback “Nine thousand miles away, in a remote village in India, children are risking their lives to bring you the shimmer in your makeup (The Makeup)”. Refinery 29, a multinational digital media company claims that children as young as five are required to work in illegal and treacherous mines that produce a shiny material found in a vast number of cosmetic products – otherwise known as Mica. Mica is a natural mineral and its reflective property results in a shimmery effect that is coveted by many people as a tool for creativity in the cosmetics industry. The total revenue for the United States cosmetic industry in 2019 was 49.2 billion U.S dollars (Revenue). But is it really worth having children in poverty ridden areas risk their lives to attain products for ones self expression?
Jharkhand, a village in India with an estimated poverty rate of 46% (Rural), relies on mica mining as it’s the only source of employment for nearly the entire village. Back in the 1980’s, new environmental laws were made to prevent underground mica mining. This is an old practice in which a hole (varying from 5 feet to 40 feet or even deeper) is dug and people, specifically children because of their small size, go underground and scrape the mica off of the walls in the caves. This is an extremely dangerous practice as the children are at risk of respiratory issues as they constantly inhale the dust and powders, and also death or serious injury from collapsing mines or falling debris.. “The earth caved in. I got trapped inside,” said Surma Kumari, one of the many miners in Jharkhand. Surma Kumari and her sister Lakshmi were mining for mica when the mine suddenly collapsed; Surma was able to make it to safety with only a big scar below her hip, but the same cannot be said for her sister Lakshmi. The Kumari parents describe seeing their teenage daughter trapped under a big rock: “ I struggled to get her out…. She was buried beneath the dirt. My teenage daughter is gone.” Despite this type of mica mining being banned, many “mafias” have started running hidden and illicit operations that result in an average of 10 to 20 mining related deaths annually.
Pooja Bhurla, now 11 years old, has been working everyday since the ripe age of 8 as a mica miner in a village in Jharkhand.Pooja describes her routine: “I pick mica one by one. It takes me a long time. I come every day.” She is completely aware of the dangers that come along with this job as she says in an interview “ I am scared to go inside (the mines). If the debris falls on me I will die. It happened here. Debris fell on a kid and he was killed.”Other children including Pooja are forced to quit school and mine mica in order to have food on the table. Most of the kids earn around 25 cents a day working in these illegal mica operations. Another child described his experience by saying “it’s very dark in there and we are very afraid of all the rocks falling on us. I saw a lot of children get hurt and I saw a kids head split open”.. It is estimated that more than 20,000 children are working all across the region in mines just like this one.
The people who run the illegal Mica trade in Jharkhand have built for it a facade.Once the mica leaves the mines, where and who it is sold, and the fact that child labor is being used to extract this mineral, is completely obscure. Refinery 29 video, “the dark secret behind your makeup products”, which explored the mines in Jharkhand, explained that, “Traders pedal the mica to intermediates who often sell it under the license of legal mine from another part of the country”. Since this system is extremely perplexing, finding the origins of where exactly the Mica is produced is almost impossible.
There are two types of mica, synthetic version and a natural version. Although the synthetic version ( Synthetic Fluorphlogopite) may seem like a better choice considering that it is made in a lab, avoids childlabor and is plastic free, it uses a lot of energy and makes it more financially difficult for the families who rely on natural mika for a living. Finding solution ideas that are applicable, considering both the situation of the people and how concealed the Mica mining industry is, is difficult but still possible. Since poverty is the underlying backbone of this industry, eliminating it in such remote areas is key to helping out these families. Donating to funds including the “Kailash Satyarthi” and the “Thomas Reuters Foundation” can be a way to help these children get back into schools and lead a better future. Even a $1 dollar can provide food on the table and prevent these children from having to work in such dangerous circumstances. As well as encouraging popular “beauty” influencers on various social media platforms to address this issue and encourage their audience to donate and educate themselves on how they can make a difference. We must work together as a society to shed more light on this subject and assist those who are living in such impoverished areas.
Here are the links to donate to:
Thomas Reuters Foundation: https://www.trust.org/human-rights/
Kailash Satyarthi foundation: http://bit.ly/310q2ru
As an Empower and Help ambassador I feel the importance of using my voice on issues that may not be prevalent among the general public.The mica crisis has been ongoing and gains little to no media attention. Those families need our assistance and their only way out of poverty ridden areas is education. As a society we must work together to help them attain that education through donations.
Rural Poverty in Jharkhand, India : An Empirical Study based on Panel Data
Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation: Home