Let me tell you about Mica

Mica is a silicate mineral, and it is made up of many (peelable) sheets. It is actually a group of minerals, but they all display similar properties. It is heat resistant, but does not conduct electricity. When you handle it you come away with sparkles on your hands. It is used in pigments, in beauty products – check the ingredients of your make up and it’ll be there – and also, in plasterboard, used in construction.

I like working with industrial minerals because the end uses they represent are so distinct. I like going to the mines and speaking to the people developing new projects, or expanding existing ones. I like learning about new end markets.

I don’t like it when producers or end users disrespect human rights in order to turn a profit.

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So shiny: A Mica mine in the US. Source: Jimmy Thomas, via Flickr

A report released this week by CORE found that cosmetics companies L’Oréal, Revlon, Boots and Estée Lauder “make no mention in their statements of child labour in mica supply chains.”

“A quarter of the world’s mica comes from Northeast India where around 20,000 children are estimated to work in hundreds of mica mines”, the report says.

L’Oreal has responded and said that it is “well aware” of the slavery issue and claims that it sources its mica from the US and Canada.

Here’s the thing. We don’t have to buy products from companies that do things we don’t like. And companies do not have to buy from places which abuse human rights or who use child labour.

Here is a list of other countries which produce mica. More mica than India in fact: Canada, the US, China, Finland, France, S. Korea, Madagascar, Turkey, Russia. These countries all produce scrap and flake mica, which is used in beauty products. It’s just Russia and India which produce sheet mica (used in the electrical industry as an insulator).

Okay, so not all of the above countries have an amazing human rights record. But there is a choice. There is a choice companies can make and the more we know about it, the more power we as consumers have.

We can start to demand to know where companies are sourcing their materials from – there are no shortage of suppliers who will source conflict and slavery-free minerals for end users. I have linked to a trader I know here, but there are many others.

You don’t need to be a rock geek or a good person, you can be both. I am proud to say that I have worked with many producers who take real pride in their human resources. It is galling that in this day and age there are still many who believe they don’t need to do this.

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