India's mica mines: the shameful truth behind mineral make-up's shimmer

Topic Selected: Child Labour & Exploitation

General Article icon Type: General Article

Mohammed Salim Ansari is worried he is in trouble. Crouched, alone and barefoot, and carrying a sharpened stick he uses to hack at the wall of earth in front of him, he thinks we have come to take him from his family.

Frightened, almost in tears, he is mollified when we explain we only want to talk about his work, and he quietly goes back to his crude mining in a small hollow of rock.

The low hills of Jharkhand shimmer in the afternoon sun, but all that glitters is not gold. The precious mineral lode of these mountains, in India’s poor, remote east, does not bring riches to those who mine it. Instead, the mica that gives sparkle to the world means only grinding work, and an unremitting, unprofitable obligation to do more of it.

Mica is a mineral coveted for centuries for its unique lustre. But its myriad uses in modern products now make it a valuable commodity. It is mica that gives make-up products such as eyeshadow, nail polish, lipstick and concealer

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