In India, the largest sources of mica come from the so-called “mica belt” that straddles the borders of Jharkhand and Bihar states in eastern India and whose economies are highly dependent on mica.
While the world learnt about children labouring in mica mines in the Indian states of Jharkhand and Bihar, many companies using mica decided this was not acceptable, and started to act. Due to its unusual combination of visual, insulation and functional properties, mica is used as an effect pigment in cosmetics and paints, an electronic insulator and as a filler and lubricant in construction and underground drilling, respectively.
A DO-TANK called Responsible Mica Initiative (RMI) was created to join forces and work towards a sustainable change. November 2018, nearly two years since its inception, RMI presented its achievements during a conference held in Delhi. At its two-day multi-stakeholder conference, RMI updated on several milestones that have been reached in each of RMI’s three program pillars to create a responsible, fair and sustainable mica industry.
RMI member companies undertook an initial mapping project to trace the mica in their supply chains back to processing units and mines. Comprehensive workplace standards (social, environmental and health & safety) developed by RMI are currently being implemented at 3 mica processing companies. Simultaneously, RMI program partners conducted a baseline assessment in 40 villages in communities adjacent to the mines and processors to get a better understanding of the needs of these communities. The program addresses more than 2,500 households and will be supporting the community with how to improve their livelihoods, quality education, nutrition and health as well as access to government schemes. Finally, RMI, supply chain actors, the community and government representatives advanced discussions to support the development of a regulatory framework that would enable a legal mica industry. This is currently one of the major road blocks of creating a sustainable mica supply chain, as the current legislation does not allow for mica mining in forested areas.
In the implementation of its holistic strategy RMI partnered with six renowned India-based non-governmental organizations (NGOs) – the Association for Stimulating Know-How (ASK), Care India, AT-Grassroots, Abhivyakti Foundation, Bhartiya Jan Utthan Parishad and Samajik Parivartan Sansthan.
Commenting on RMI’s progress, Fanny Fremont, RMI’s Executive Director said, “RMI has reached significant milestones this year by successfully joining forces across industries associated with the mica supply chain and with the support of our great program partners. By expanding membership and increasing engagement with local stakeholders, especially in key communities across states of Bihar and Jharkhand, RMI is on track to achieve its five-year mission to implement good practices and eradicate child labour and unacceptable working conditions in the Indian mica supply chain.”
During the stakeholder conference on day-two, RMI members, Board of Directors and partners were joined by external experts and stakeholders to explore opportunities and challenges that lie ahead in RMI’s goals and strategies.
A panel discussion was hosted in the morning of the second day between Alok Kumar, Joint Director, Jharkhand Department of Industry, Rashad Abelson, Legal Expert, Responsible Business Conduct Unit, OECD and Mousumi Barua, Care India, moderated by Vijay Jain of RMI. In the context of the OECD’s Due Diligence Guidance designed to create responsible mineral supply chains (which RMI is fully aligned with), the panelists discussed, among other issues, the importance of multi-stakeholder collaboration and commitment of the government to support the citizens, the improvement of mica mining conditions, transparency, as well as the economic growth of the region.