Price of a lipstick’s sparkle

Slave-trade children are dying mining mica, writes Monique Villa

The World Today
Published 28 September 2016 Updated 26 November 2020 2 minute READ

Monique Villa

CEO of the Thomson Reuters Foundation and Founder of TrustLaw and Trust Women

It is Saturday afternoon in London. A store in Oxford Street is packed with teenagers scrambling to get their hands on the latest deals. A popular lipstick is on offer. It’s an absolute bargain. Baskets fill up quickly. The girls queue, pay and leave the store happy. They have never heard of ‘mica’.

Across the world, it’s a different story. There, children know only too well what mica is. They are dying because of it. Just ask Manan Ansari, who was only eight years old when he began working in a mica mine for a pittance, digging out the mineral that puts sparkle into that lipstick. Many of the children who worked with him – including his best friend – are now dead.

According to recent estimates by the Dutch campaign group SOMO, about 20,000 children are working in excruciating circumstances in India, mining mica in the states of Bihar, Jharkhand and Rajasthan. The country produces 60 per cent of the world’s mica.

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