Madagascar: Large-scale child labor in the extraction of mica

Minerals that are used in countless products are widely mined by children in Madagascar. They work under miserable conditions and are constantly exposed to a fine dust to extract the so-called mica, Terre des Hommes and Stichting Multinational Enterprises Research (SOMO) report in an investigation into the abuses.

At least half of all mica production is done in the African country by children between 5 and 17 years old, the organizations discovered. They speak of “serious exploitation” of at least 22,000 workers.

The majority of the stuff goes to China. Through various steps in the production process, it is ultimately processed by the industry and the shiny stuff ends up in products that Western consumers buy without impediments.

Madagascar: Large-scale child labor in the extraction of mica
©Jan-Joseph Stok/Terre des Hommes – A ten-year-old girl working in a mine in the Anosy region of Madagascar.

Mica is a collective name for minerals that are used very widely. The glassy minerals are insulating and heat-resistant. They are used in electronics and in the automotive industry, among other things, and are also found in plastics, paint, ink, and cosmetics.

Terre des Hommes writes that the stuff reaches China via buyers such as Panasonic, Fujikura, Dutch-Italian Prysmian, and the Swiss companies Van Roll and Isovolta. The organization calls on electronics companies and the automotive industry to do their best to find out where the mica in their products comes from. “Companies cannot accept the risk of child labor and must ban child labor together with their suppliers.”

According to the researchers, the government of Madagascar is hardly able to intervene. It lacks the means to properly supervise the mining sector.

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