Moving Towards a Responsible Mica Supply Chain
On the surface, Mica may seem like a very narrow area of interest. However, the light, heat-resistant, sparkling silicate mineral known as Mica has a wide range of applications across many industries. Mica is used throughout the construction, cosmetic, plastic, paint, automotive, oil & gas, and electronic industries from its electrical and thermal insulation properties to its pearlescent visual properties and functional abilities. The Mica mining industry and raw material supply chain generates nearly half a billion USD in revenue and is comprised of workers across mines including in India and Madagascar, where a large part of the workforce is made up of young children.
In these two countries, in large part, Mica is produced in mines with unsafe working conditions with high levels of child labor than other supply chains. Historically Mica supply chains have struggled with unethical working conditions due to the demand for cheap labor coupled with “informal mining” operations as the industry became an employment lifeline for many. To engage in efforts to eliminate child labor and poor working conditions there needs to be better defined operating standards. This can be developed, implemented, and made sustainable with industry-wide collaboration across all stakeholders.
ELEVATE together with the Responsible Mica Initiative (RMI) has been working to enhance standards for RMI members for the Mica Industry that combat and regulate issues related to child and forced labor, working conditions, and environmental and social impacts. As operational and compliance risks increase, especially across key sourcing countries for Mica, visibility into operations and mapping supply chains becomes ever more important to understand risk and adopt industry standards on fair labor, environmental and occupational health, and safety practices.
“All organizations members of the Responsible Mica Initiative share a common vision: that global mica supply chains are fair, responsible, sustainable, and free of child labor. Toward that aim, RMI is following a holistic approach, addressing the identified root causes that lead to unacceptable working conditions and child labor along mica supply chains.”
Since 2017 The Responsible Mica Initiative and its members have been committed to transforming the Mica industry into one that is socially, environmentally, and ethically better for all workers, communities, and countries together that depend on the Mica industry for resources.
The RMI strategy is three-tiered:
- Mapping and Workplace Standards
- Community Empowerment
- Legal Frameworks
As part of this strategy ELEVATE assessed the audit protocol for RMI’s workplace standards to identify gaps and align the severity of issues to industry standards to support a strong audit checklist. RMI launched its standard in March 2021 and is open to both members and non-members of RMI. In addition, ELEVATE will support this initiative in the field. Currently, in the pilot phase, ELEVATE will be carrying out assessments in Mica processing units, leveraging ELEVATE’s experience in India and expertise across industries using Mica in their supply chains. At the end of this pilot, ELEVATE will one of the auditing bodies for the RMI Workplace Standards.
“RMI members share the conviction that responsibilities in solving mica-related issues have to be shared. Within mica-using industries specifically, RMI’s main goals are to:
- Map Mica supply chains and implement responsible workplace standards
- Empower Mice-dependent communities
- Establish clear legal frameworks”
Understanding your supply chain is specifically vital for effecting change in the system. Mapping the source of your Mica in products to exporters, processors, and mines is necessary to understand where there is risk, and how you can adopt practices that will eradicate child labor and implement a better workplace, environment, health, safety, and fair labor practices.
These blogs are written by ELEVATE staff members or associates and the views and opinions expressed are not necessarily those of ELEVATE.
Images sources: RMI