In the depths of India’s illegal mica mines, where children as young as five work alongside adults, lurks a dark, hidden secret – the cover-up of child deaths with seven killed in the past two months, a Thomson Reuters Foundation investigation revealed.
Here are some of the key findings of a three-month long investigation in the states of Jharkhand, Bihar, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh into child labour involved in producing mica, the mineral that puts the sparkle into make-up and car paint:
* Investigations by the Thomson Reuters Foundation found children working in and around mica mines in northern Jharkhand, southern Bihar and in Rajasthan
* At least seven children reported killed in the past two months alone in mines
* Mine operators and victims’ families are covering up these deaths, not reporting them but accepting payments for fear of ending the illegal mining that brings much needed income to poor areas, according to campaigners and victims’ families
* Farmer Vasdev Rai Pratap’s teenage Madan was killed in a mica mine in June but he has not reported his son’s death and is awaiting a promised a $1,500 payment from the mine operator
* Workers at Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi’s child protection group Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) say the teenager’s death is the tip of the iceberg, estimating less than 10 percent of mica mine deaths are reported to the police.