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Children as young as five make up most of Madagascar’s mica mining workforce

Category: Events 
2019-11-22

Children as young as five make up more than half the number of miners scavenging for mica in Madagascar, according to a leading child rights group.

A year-long investigation by Terre des Hommes Netherlands found that at least 11,000 children between the ages of five and 17 are employed in quarrying and processing the shimmery, heat-resistant mineral, which is used in everything from makeup to car paint and hugely prevalent in the automotive and electronics industry.

Children comprise as much as 62% of the overall mining workforce, researchers found, with miners descending deep into the ground to cut the mica by hand.

The work is dangerous, with children complaining of aching muscles, open sores and respiratory problems, according to the report, published this week by Terre des Hommes and the Dutch Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations.


“The fact that more than half of all the miners are under-age is shocking and should be seen as a global call to action,” said Jos de Voogd of Terre des Hommes.

 

“Nearly 90% of all the mica mined in Madagascar is being exported directly to China, and our research found that none of the companies involved are doing their due diligence to find out where their product is coming from or what working conditions are like. They need to take responsibility and stop child exploitation.”

 

Drought, instability and extreme poverty in Madagascar’s southern regions, where the mica mines are located, force entire families to descend to the mines together to scavenge, dig and process the mineral artisanally, according to the report. Of the 13 mines visited by researchers, only two had valid licenses.

Adult and child miners alike are paid just 34p a kilo – less than half of what is paid in India, despite exports having jumped by a factor of 30 since 2008, according to the report.


After a series of high-profile investigations into the mica industry in India – where 20,000 children were employed and 90% of mines were believed to be operating without licenses – the Indian government vowed in 2017 to legalise mining of the prized mineral. Yet according to an exposé published this week by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, illegal mining remains rampant in Jharkhand, a major mica mining state where children continue to work – and die – while scavenging for the mineral.

 

 

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