It's Time to Mica Change

Ever walked by a display case and get distracted by the shimmery, sparkly makeup? Probably, right?

Ever wondered what makes your eyeshadow that way? If you have, the answer is mica, and it’s mined, mainly, by children in northern India.

According to The Guardian, India is responsible for 60% of global mica production, and Terre Des Hommes reports that 90% is the result of illegal labor. When ITV News investigated some of these unregulated mines, they discovered that 5-10 children die each month of mine related injuries. Adult fatalities are unreported, and possibly much higher. To report the deaths would mean potentially losing income. These families are in such dire poverty that they can’t send their children to school, and must take them to the mines instead to help earn money. Even then, working in illegal mines results in only 40% of a legal miner’s average salary – but these workers have no other choice.

Luckily, the Responsible Mica Initiative was created in February 2016. The goal, according to their website, is to “eradicate child labor within the next five years and unacceptable working conditions in the Indian mica supply chain.” Brands like L’Oreal, Estee Lauder, Revlon, H&M, Chanel, and Burt’s Bees are listed as members of the initiative. On L’Oreal’s website, they write that they source their mica only from legal mines. Lush has also spoken out, claiming that they have switched to synthetic mica, which unfortunately has trace amounts of natural mica. Mica is often mixed with other materials, causing them to slip under the radar. Companies need to be firm, vigilant and respect human life: as a consumer, your money speaks. If you can, look into the brands you buy. Appeal to your favorite companies. Spread the word.

On a final, hopeful note, India has begun legalizing mica mining by finding unregulated mica dumps and putting them up for auction as of May 2017. Ideally, better wages and regulations will result, and children will no longer work at the mines. However, it’s not known how long this process will take, but it’s a step in the right direction.