Exploring the Impact of Mica Mining on Children's Rights to Education in India

School Children in Uttar Pradesh, India


In this era of globalization, global free markets have implications for how countries need to prepare for the transfer of economic power to one another (Carlton, 1949). In particular, subtle differences have emerged in the field of education. The World Bank (2023) stated its mission to ‘end poverty’ and promote the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It has brought into focus two aspects of its practice. On the positive side, this international organization allows its member countries to develop their countries, especially in education. However, there has been criticism that the World Bank does not provide clear procedures to member countries on the investment guidelines for their funds (Ravallion, 2016). Another challenge that member states often face is their ethical obligations, particularly in the allocation of resources. Additionally, Stausholm et al. (2022) highlighted that some developing countries engage in illegal activities that harm their economies, such as signing contracts with foreign companies without following legal procedures for their benefit.

This essay will concentrate on an ongoing case, namely the mica mining case in India, and how it impacts children's access to education because children are involved in child labor. Kissin (2023) reported India is the highest World Bank debt as of December, 2021. Furthermore, this country's Corruption Perceptions Index obtained a score of 39 out of 100, with zero denoting extreme corruption and 100 reflecting complete cleanliness (International Transparency, 2023). India's dire economic conditions affect schooling. Long working hours compel many children to remain working as mica miners rather than going to school. Some illicit local companies collaborate with large multinational companies. These companies benefit from this condition. For instance, the controversy surrounding the Merck Company in the cosmetics sector presents positive and negative public opinion. According to their website, they are accountable for the issue, and the processed product should comply with ethical standards. They contend they carried out their research in India. Thus, the products they produce are standardized. Nonetheless, the challenging aspect is that even if the children are no longer employed, it would affect the family's financial situation. Therefore, several illegal activities are still possible to occur (Kate et al., 2016).

The writer will investigate this particular issue of child labor and how it hinders children from their right to education by applying the concept of dependency theory. On a broader level, this theory will also provide an argument on how holistically the international system may prevent developing nations from prosperity. Specifically, the writer intends to explore some key elements from the dependency theory concept, which include core-periphery structure, unequal exchange, underdevelopment, imperialism and exploitation, limited state autonomy, and the importance of structural change.

The Role of Multinational Corporations (MNCs) in Mica Mining

The advancement of science has an impact on people's lifestyles. The natural resource, Mica, has attracted several investors in the cosmetics industry and transportation. This mineral is mainly from several nations, including India, Brazil, and Finland. Furthermore, several leading companies, including BMW, L'Oreal, and Glossier, use this natural resource. For example, in the electric car industry, makeup-based insulation substances are used to insulate high-voltage battery pack systems, thermal battery systems, and heat-resistant platforms (Fahim, 2024). A further instance in the beauty industry is the utilization of this natural resource in beauty products like eyeshadows, lipsticks, and body lotions. The cosmetics may assist with concealing fine lines and wrinkles on the skin (RMI, 2020).

One of the primary concerns in mica mining is child labor, which occurs when children prefer to work rather than attend school for a variety of reasons, including a lack of financial resources. Several reputable businesses obtain this natural resource more sustainably to avert the case. Moreover, in the study by Lendal et al. (2014), these MNCs comply with international standards such as the International Labor Organization (ILO), the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, and Fairtrade International. However, even if the MNCs have a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) plan to prohibit child labor, it remains unfeasible to ensure that no children participate in the extraction of mica from their suppliers. Several illegal practices are projected to occur since individuals struggle to meet their basic needs. In this context, in response to an investigation, Glossier (n.d.) stated that they demand their partner fully commit to their partner's code of conduct, demonstrating Glossier's dedication to operating its company in an ethical, responsible, and considerate manner. However, the ongoing presence of children in illegal mica extraction practices is still an area of concern.

Mica Mining on Economic Disparity and Poverty within India

India has an immense population, with roughly 30% of its population living in poverty across the country. Andhra Pradesh, located in a region on the southern coast, is among the country's most densely populated. It has 21% of its residents living in poverty (Serneels & Dercon, 2021). Another study by Coffey et al. (2019) discovered that the nation's caste-based system is associated with socioeconomic inequality. There is a well-established correlation between poverty and the caste-based system, which divides education, land ownership, consumption, healthcare access, and subjective well-being. Another instance of this discrepancy occurs regionally, resulting in economic inequality since per capita income and development levels range across India. According to one study, policy interventions should focus on income distribution and increasing resource allocation to poor regions such as Eastern and Central India to reduce inequality (Kumar et al., 2020). The rise of capitalism has also been linked to impacts on serious corruption and increasing disparities in the country. Furthermore, a small number of those with political and business connections dominate the economy has sparked dissatisfaction and an understanding of unjust practices.

This country has been regarded as one of the biggest suppliers of mica to the market due to its excellent quality, enormous volumes, and low cost (Swamidurai & d'Andriole, 2022). Mica production in India is frequently processed by Artisanal and Small-scale Mining (ASM), which involves miners working manually inside tunnels. Schipper and Cowan (2018) discovered that an estimated 89% of mining in Jharkhand/Bihar is unlawful, with an illegal miner in India earning 45% of their work. It demonstrates how the sector, by relatively inadequate financial recompense, exacerbates poverty among its workers, leading to unsustainable living. The severe economic hardship that families in the area encounter has a detrimental effect on their children's right to an education. Given the legal framework that has been in place over the years, the continuation of this issue in mica mining remains an unpleasant fact. Much has shifted, the areas where children engage are more dynamic than ever. This community places little value on education. They prefer to make one rupee alongside the children then spend the same amount for them (Aslam, 2020). The schooling facilities supplied by the government are also inadequate. Parents are left with little alternative but to allow their children to collect the mineral.

Mica Mining, Child Labor, and Local Community Education

Poverty is one of the most prominent reasons why children are compelled to labor. Garg (1998) explained that children who work are frequently poorly paid, and the assumption that they possess little legal or political power turns them susceptible to exploitation. It is distinct from adults who might gripe regarding their positions. Coping with this issue is challenging since mica mining has been widely acknowledged as one of the primary keys to technological advancement. It transforms how individuals live every day. While this development may benefit financially secure individuals, it also raises a particular difficulty for children who live in poverty. Many studies have found that the origin of child labor cannot be attributed to a single phenomenon. Moreover, Nguyen (2017) argued that it entails various issues such as globalization, restricted education, and the social-cultural notions of differentiating between child and childhood. Numerous global organizations highlight the significance of ensuring children's access to education as a means to prevent children from committing child labor. Nevertheless, the present mica mining sector indicates that addressing this issue is unavoidable.

As previously stated, the exploitation of children in mining for mica appears to be boundless due to the existence of mica mining itself. Existing corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs may provide methods to prevent these complex issues. One of these initiatives is the Responsible Mica Initiative (RMI). The RMI routinely attends seminars on supply chain responsibility, human rights, and child labor. The site also claims that this project accomplished numerous objectives, including offering scholarships to 300 children to prevent dropouts (RMI, 2023). Yet, Font et al. (2012) found that there is a significant disparity between the goals of CSR and the actual challenges with implementation. It is difficult to eliminate child labor in this country due to extreme poverty, and it even allows local communities whose livelihoods are dependent on mica mining to bring in children in the laborious process. CSR staff might carry out thorough inquiries. However, it is implausible to assert that the study's findings indicate no child labor in the area when, in particular, minors continue to work illegally within the mining area.

Global Policy Intervention

The RMI gathered together 20 companies concerned with the issue of child labor, and by the end of the year, its membership had increased to 97 (RMI, 2023). This group communicated its goals and plans to government agencies, enterprises, intergovernmental groups, and industrial associations. They came to promote workplace regulations and ethical practices in mining and mica manufacturing operations. In another case, Kate et al. (2016) stated that the Natural Resources Stewardship Circle (NRSC) and Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) jointly established the Responsible Mica Sourcing Summit in 2016. As stated by Bliss (2017 as cited in Rozani, 2022), the goal of this program is to target 63 stakeholders, which includes several reputable companies such as L'Oreal, Estée Lauder, and Chanel, to present them regarding the societal and financial risks of mica and eventually reach an understanding for these stakeholders to concentrate on "traceability and transparency, involvement in the community, and multistakeholder governance". For instance, Deanna RC provided several additional villages for Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) to help children receiving an education in public schools (Kate et al., 2016).

Considering to international regulation on this issue, three conventions provide fundamental legal norms for children: the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, ILO Convention, and Convention number 138 (Minimum Age Convention) (O’Driscoll, 2017 as cited in Rozani, 2022). The Convention states that children under the age of eighteen are not permitted to engage in employment in mining jobs, and those under the age of fourteen are not authorized to participate for any reason (OHCHR, 1989). Besides, Boateng (2017) underlined that although the ILO made an effort to collaborate with United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and other international organizations to prevent child labor through their International Program on the Elimination of Child Labor (IPEC), data depicted that such representation has a limited effect on attaining results. The US Department of Labor (DOL) (2022) published its report on the Worst Forms of Child Labor in India, which classified this country as making moderate progress in eliminating child labor issue. The government has been able to implement legislation preventing child mining in Jharkhand through government institutions such as the State Government Labor Inspectorate, the Child Welfare Committee, and the Vigilance Committee.

Dependency Theory on Children’s Right to Education in India

The dependency theory is a framework that addresses economic underdevelopment that emphasizes the worldwide division of employment, social classes, and globalized capitalism (Sens, 2012). It focuses on the world's political and economic order. Raúl Prebisch, an Argentine economist and statesman, initially proposed it in the 1960s (Vang-Phu & Dar, 2022). Within this model, the phenomena of underdevelopment are mainly caused by four positions: The Center of the Center, Periphery of the Center, Center of the Periphery, and Periphery of the Periphery. Moreover, the aforementioned theoretical framework is an effective tool to understand the issue of mica mining in India. Marginson (2019) explained how human capital theory provides several limitations and in particular, how it hinders children's access to education, and how the endless cycle of poverty emerges and contributes to this continuous dilemma due to different family’s condition of the children. This theory’s limitation supports the concept of dependency theory.

  • Center of Center (CC) – The USA

The CC alludes to the world's wealthiest and most dominant countries, such as the USA. According to this theory, the center of centers leads industry, technology, education, and research. Globalization has transformed the economic climate, resulting in the emergence of global hegemonic practices (Rizvi et al., 2022). This country performs a significant part in establishing and upholding hegemony in the postwar international order, particularly in the international political economy. It controlled the establishment of the postwar liberal international economy and enacted several free trade initiatives, including the Bretton Woods system and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (Saull, 2010).

Ratnam (1998) highlighted that since India's liberalization in 1991, the USA has had a significant part in the expansion of MNCs. The MNCs from the USA were drawn to India due to its large and developing market, active democracy, legitimate legal system, powerful bureaucracy, competitive human and environmental assets, and widespread use of English as a business language. India has also received major portfolio investments from the USA, the UK, and Singapore.

As a result, from a top-down standpoint, it is apparent that all activity stems from a single country's hegemony, which eventually impacts the economies of developing nations. The MNCs and CSR initiatives attempt to mitigate the issue, particularly in the educational sector. Comprehensive studies can only decrease the number of children who engage in mica mining since the possibility of illegal extraction remains occurring, considering that mica is a substantial natural resource, especially for the nations deemed as the CC.

  • Periphery of Center (PC) – Canada

Canada is seen as a second-class nation in the world's economy, ranking behind the top rank of states in terms of its economy (Klassen, 2009). However, it does not compare to peripheral countries like India. Furthermore, although this country develops very little in the periphery, this country depends on these mining projects for revenues and competitive advantages over the United States and Europe (Seccareccia, 2007). Klassen (2009) also elaborated that Canada is economically exempted, Americanized, and increasingly relies on the USA. They point out that American investment dominates the Canadian economy and that the Canadian elites only serve US interests. This country has a considerable GDP, is a leading exporter and importer, and contributes to a larger percentage of GDP through foreign commerce than several European countries (UNCTAD, 2008; OECD, 2009). However, there is disagreement on whether Canada depends on the United States or an independent imperialist.

  • Center of Periphery (CP) - India

Due to its economic characteristics and position in the international arena, India is regarded as a CP in the global economy (Lizza, 2009 as cited in Fabbietti, 2013). The country's fiscal policies have recognized the value of the free market in its economic growth process, leading to a change toward a more market-oriented strategy. Moreover, Fabbietti (2013) argued that India's major centers, like New Delhi, Mumbai, and Calcutta, are essential to the country's economic networks and wealth centralization. Despite being one of the world's fastest-growing economies, India continues to grapple with underdevelopment and low living standards (Boillot, 2007 as cited in, Fabbietti, 2013). This unequal distribution has a bearing on the country's sociopolitical equilibrium and affects the nation's overall development and stability. Lizza (2009 as cited in Fabbietti, 2013) further explained that the paradox of India's economic condition, featuring an advanced and technologically sophisticated industry coexisting with severe poverty, indicates the obstacles that the country experiences as the CP in the economy.

  • Periphery of Periphery (PP) - Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe falls within the PP in the economy. It is a peripheral capitalist country in the southern African region. This nation inherited a financial system that promoted white consumption of luxury items, leading to a highly unequal income distribution. Mlambo (2017) argued that Zimbabwe is one of the world's most unequal economies, with only a minority of the population controlling a share of the national income. Additionally, Zimbabwe has transformation restrictions, peripheral countries that rely heavily on capitalist production, such as concerns about diminishing output and hyperinflation (Fitzgerald, 1986). These variables contribute to Zimbabwe's economic PP status. This nation struggles with socioeconomic change and inequality.

As described previously, such inequality exists due to capitalism, wherein wealthy nations dominate developing countries (Marginson, 2019). Even under this assumption, it is questionable whether there is a distinction between those with money and those who are struggling in each country's position. This framework solely describes how the economy operates in general as opposed to providing explicit practical solutions. While the system has been established to function as such, it is the country's duty and ethics to decide the extent to which they will be held accountable. For instance, India can request funds from the World Bank to invest in its country. Despite the disclosed records confirming their investments, allegations of corruption continue to occur (Wickens, 2007). On a more general basis, the World Bank fails to offer comprehensive guidance for the member state. They delegate the authority to the member state. Ultimately, the argument asserts that developing countries cannot grow due to the system designed to remain as such, commonly referred to as underdevelopment.


The practice of child labor in mining industries has been prevalent for many years, and it has never been completely solved. The sole approach is to minimize the number of children involve in this activity. The growing number of MNCs offers advantages and downsides. Further, the dependency theory explores how a nation has been situated and constructed from the CC to the PP position. This theory argues that underdevelopment best represents the worldwide situation now and how it affects developing countries. Ultimately, the theory's foundational idea is the belief that there is an international division of labor, class distinctions, and global capitalism.

The authorities might argue that it was executed by complying with particular regulations for MNCs and providing several CSR initiatives. However, the scenario remains ambiguous as it would overlook or eliminate some external variables. This theory additionally explains why each developing country experiences an ongoing cycle of poverty. It is advised that government should emphasize on educating its citizen to enhance their work performance to diminish the country’s dependency from other nations. Particularly, India in which the caste-based system remains in place, as this system is associated with inequality.


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