Laxity of industry on child labour in mica products

European consumers can not trust that mica-containing cable, paint and cosmetics products are child-labour free. Terre des Hommes has investigated the entire production chain of the shiny mineral, from the largely illegal mining in India to the shop shelves. Only half of the companies surveyed practise careful research into the origin of the raw material.

Retailer HEMA undertakes no demonstrable action to prevent child labour in the mica chain and cable manufacturer Draka does not even have an internal ban on child labour, despite the fact that already in 2014, there were clear signs about the widespread use of children in mica mining.

An hazardous and unhealthy work

map mica mines in IndiaThe world’s largest source area of the mineral mica is the Indian region Jharkhand / Bihar. Only 10% of the mica from this area originates from legal mines with strict supervision of working conditions. The other 90% comes from illegal mines where an estimated twenty thousand children work, often with their entire family. They cut mica from the rocks or sort mica flakes.

The work is hazardous and unhealthy,with the constant danger of collapse and continuous inhalation of dust. The children have to work for long hours and do not go to school.


Terre des Hommes  investigated the origin of mica in the products of eight major users in the Netherlands: Akzo Nobel, Prysmian Draka, Unilever, Royal Philips, DSM, A. S. Watson, Ahold and HEMA. The presence of an active due diligence policy has been assessed – whether these companies conduct structural investigation of business processes on child and human rights violations, specifically regarding mica mining in India.
Four of the eight companies which were assessed lack a solid due diligence with regard to child labour in mining and processing mica as a whole. Prysmian / Draka, the largest supplier of cables for the energy and telecom industry, does not even prohibit child labour in their production but “supports” efforts of employees and suppliers to ban child labour.

Immediate action

Terre des Hommes urges the companies involved to take immediate action to prevent the exploitation of children in the production of mica.

“We are talking about one of the worst forms of child labour. Dutch companies have to take their responsibility. We therefore call on them to clean up their supply chain and to show a social face by providing assistance to children and their families in Jharkhand / Bihar,” says director Albert Jaap van Santbrink of Terre des Hommes Netherlands. “And if companies do not speed up, then the government must intervene.”

Read the report ‘Beauty and a Beast – child labour in India for sparkling cars and cosmetics‘ here

Source : Terre des Hommes Netherlands