WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Labor today announced the award of a $4.5 million cooperative agreement with Pact Inc., an international nonprofit organization, to combat child labor in mica-producing communities in Madagascar.
In the Anôsy region where mica mining occurs – where the poverty rate is 96.7 percent – an ongoing drought has contributed to a near famine. The coronavirus pandemic and the drought have devastated the region’s agricultural harvests and increased the cost of staple foods. The price of mica and the incomes of the families who mine it have also decreased as a result of the pandemic. Amid these dire conditions, Malagasy families feel that they have no choice but to send their children to work in and around the mines to buy food and fulfill basic needs.
An estimated 10,000 children endure unsafe working conditions currently in Madagascar’s informal mica industry. Typically, boys work underground digging to extract mica ore; some have suffocated to death in poorly ventilated mines. Above ground, girls haul and process mica and face frequent pressure from mica collectors to engage in sex for money. These children often develop respiratory illnesses from mica dust particles. All of this happens in a country where inadequate labor laws are poorly enforced.
Companies in China buy Madagascar’s mica for use in manufacturing a variety of products, including automobiles, cosmetics and electronics, many of which find their way to U.S. consumers.
Administered by the Bureau of International Labor Affairs, Pact Inc.’s Madagascar Shines project will:
- Improve resiliency of mining families in mica-producing communities by providing approximately 1,800 children with educational services and 2,200 adults with livelihood services.
- Increase the capacity of government officials to coordinate the child protection measures in the mica supply chain, including establishing a code of conduct for mica mining.
- Support the efforts of civil society organizations and the media to improve public awareness around the issue of child labor in the mica supply chain.
- Promote the formalization of the mica sector and design a traceability system, fostering a sustainable mining industry that does not use child labor.