Child Labor: Mica Mining

Children as young as four years old are employed in mines across the globe to mine mica, a lustrous mineral used in daily products. These adolescents, whose small hands are beneficial for entering narrow tunnels and organizing smaller pieces of mica, toil away in mines, some of which are illegal, to earn wages that are proportional to values between 29 and 43 U.S. cents. 10 to 20 miners in India die monthly due to collapsing mines and those who survive likely suffer from permanent lung damage due to the constant exposure to the dust in these mines. With fatality occurring so regularly, some mines even have set rates of money to give to the family of the deceased. These low amounts do not suffice as many deaths are concealed by regional officials and no attempts are being made to modify the low safety assurances. Approximately 70% of mica excavated in India is from illegal mines which lack government supervision and, with no other trades in the provinces and no opportunity for education, people rely on these mines to have a source of income. 

On ingredient lists, mica can also be referred to as ‘potassium aluminum silicate’ or ‘CI 77019,’ and it is used in various consumer products, ranging from toothpaste and makeup to even your own phone and vehicle. Numerous makeup brands including L’Oréal are now stepping up and speaking out with transparency about how they obtain mica, and changing their methods to become more moral. While some brands use synthetic mica, L’Oréal, wanting workers in third world countries to be able to still generate income, only buys from suppliers who obtain their product from mines with adult workers. However, traders regularly lie about where they collect mica; so, even the methods currently used to prevent child labor are not foolproof. Numerous individuals and programs are slowly making progress in the effort to lessen and hopefully completely end child labor. For example, Kailash Satyarthi created the foundations KSCF and BBA which have freed over 3,ooo children from mica mines and connected villages in India to their government for healthcare and education purposes. To help make a stride in eliminating child labor, you can donate to various organizations like BBA or ask beauty brands on social media or elsewhere about their supply chain and where they purchase mica from. 


Photographed by Jack Pearce


Lebsack, Lexy. “The Makeup Industry’s Darkest Secret Is Hiding In Your Makeup Bag.” Mica Mining Exposes Child Labor In The Makeup Industry, 4 May 2019,