Out of the paintwork: child labour in the mica industry

The allegations that BMW, Volskwagen and Vauxhaul were linked to illegal mines in India came at a time the British media was focused almost entirely on Brexit. Consequently the story, detailing the use of children as young as 10 to harvest the mineral mica for car paints, was soon eclipsed.

This is not a first; regular news of our reliance on modern day slave labour appears, only to be forgotten within a day, maybe a week, for a new, unrelated scandal.

We mistakenly conflate temporary media representation with the idea that these victims, in this case child labourers, have been given a voice. Yet the reality is that their suffering continues more than a day, more than a week.

According to the Guardian, 20,000 children are still engaged in mica mining in India alone, and although a Responsible Mica Initiative has been introduced, no car brand has joined as of yet.

Correlated with this continued injustice is the continuity of western consumption patterns and the de-regulation of global supply chains to meet its demands. It is perversely ironic then, that the same people who are tacitly complicit in these crimes are the only ones who can even attempt to challenge them.

It is up to us, to our governments, to hold these transnational corporations to account; if not for ourselves, then for the shared humanity of children. In other words, you wouldn’t even let your own children paint your car: don’t force someone else’s to.

Published in the Stroud News and Journal 23rd April, 2017