Common make-up ingredient under scrutiny for unethical sourcing
The use of child labour for sourcing mica, a common ingredient in many make-up products, is calling the ethics of the beauty industry into question.
ITV published an investigation into unethical practices around mica sourcing in India this week, following the launch of the Responsible Mica Initiative, members of which include Clarins, L’Oréal and Estée Lauder.
Mica is a mineral and raw material regularly included in powder and cream make-up formulations to add shimmer. It is also heavily used in the automotive, electronics and painting industries.
India is one of the largest producers of mica, where the mineral is collected from mines using hand tools. ITV’s investigation said most of the mining in the Koderma district of the Jharkhand Province – which has the world’s largest mica deposits according to the British Geological Survey – is illegal and exploits young children, despite child labour being prohibited by law in India.
Miners have no protection for the dangerous work and earn very little compared to the huge profits made by the gangs that run the mines, said the investigation. It found both child and adult fatalities to be commonplace in the mines because of the haphazardly dug and deep pits, with five and 10 children estimated to die each month.
A spokesperson for Clarins told ITV its mica comes from "suppliers with their own mines in areas where child labour is strictly regulated by laws".
The Responsible Mica Initiative is a “cross-sector association ensuring close collaboration between private, public and non-profit sectors” that aims to achieve a completely responsible mica supply chain in five years’ time. Its plans include improving living conditions in mica mining communities, developing a legal framework and implementing fair and sustainable mica collection practices across the supply chain.