Giridih, Jhumri Telaiya: For generations, families living in the Koderma and Giridih districts of Jharkhand have survived on the collection and trade of mica — a shimmery, translucent mineral used in cosmetics and automobiles.
The mining of mica was once a legal, thriving business that made India the biggest exporter of the mineral. But concerns about mining causing environmental damage led to the passage of the Forest Conservation Act of 1980, which bars non-forest activities, such as mining, from taking place in forested areas without clearances from the central government.
The mica mining industry is still operational — but it has taken a different shape. Corporations have been replaced by unlicensed middle men, and labourers scavenge for mica in large abandoned mines, or dig holes into the earth for scraps.
These scraps, known as ‘dhibra’, are sold for anything between Rs 3 and Rs 15 per kilo. For families that mine together, more hands means more money, and parents often take their children along.
Mica mining is also notorious for its involvement of child labour, which has been reported by the global media extensively. The problem, however, still persists, and is threatened by the Covid-19 induced lockdown which forced schools shut.
“I would go to school but the master (teacher) hasn’t come in months. I don’t know where this mica goes, but I’ve learned how to collect it,” 12-year-old Dhanashree told ThePrint as she squatted to collect ‘dhibra’.