Responsible mica – reflecting on our place in the industry

Responsible mica – reflecting on our place in the industry

We were incredibly humbled recently to join the annual general meeting of the Responsible Mica Initiative. RMI is a global coalition which was established in 2017, on a foundation of work already done by its members to eliminate child labour and poor working conditions in the mica mining industry.

Mica is mined in 35 countries. There is incomplete data in terms of which country mines the most, but it is generally accepted that India is one of largest exporters of mica. The “mica belt” – an area known for its significant share of Indian mica as well as for its mining industry – straddles Bihar and Jharkhand, and is prone to labour abuse. This region of India is incredibly poor and largely dependent on the mica industry, lacking enforcement of the laws needed to provide oversight and prevent abuse.

RMI focuses on establishing a responsible and sustainable mica supply chain in India which is free from child labour and from unacceptable working conditions by 2022. To address the challenges surrounding the mining of mica, RMI implements three program pillars simultaneously: supply chain mapping and responsible workplace standards implementation, community empowerment, and legal frameworks.

At Elmelin we have always maintained focus on our due diligence around suppliers and been aware of the challenges in the industry. However we realise that responsible sourcing is not just about meeting your legal requirements. We believe we will learn more and contribute to change in the industry through further engagement with RMI.

Our belief is to solve the problem at this higher level, we need to understand the scale of the challenge and the reasons for its existence. Mica is predominantly mined in artisanal small scale mines (ASMs). 90% of the world’s mica mining workforce are employed in ASMs, most of which are in poor communities with very few alternative means for generating an income. Communities in which local schooling does not exist or is very poor. The people are left with very few alternatives but to mine mica.

RMI looks at supporting those communities and transforming them. Since its establishment 2 and a half years ago they have helped to transform the lives of around 35,000 people. This includes improving income per family through alternative means, providing technical and financial support to marginalised families, getting children into schools, and focusing on malnutrition and safe drinking water.

It was an insightful and eye-opening experience to listen to RMI partners and to learn more about the work they are doing on a global scale to improve the lives of those who rely on mining mica. We are on a journey to better understanding our place in the supply chain, and ensuring that we are moving beyond transactional corporate social responsibility (CSR) to being involved in effecting real transformational change for this reason we have decided to become a full member of the Responsible Mica initiative.