The story India’s dying mica industry

The story of India’s dying mica industry

11:55 AM, 8th May 2017
The story of India’s dying mica industry
A file picture of children scavenging for Mica, in Tisri block of Giridih, Jharkhand.

NEW DELHI, INDIA: Mica, the crumbly shiny white mass, comprising silicates of several elements, is a natural insulator and thus used in electrical appliances and even in computer chips. It is also, used in paints and cosmetic products. And hence, it’s always, very much in demand, globally.

However, in early 80’s, the government of India had notified to ban mining in a forest area. Of all the industry affected, mica excavation was hit the most. This ban immediately led to the closure of all mica mines in Giridih and Koderma district (Jharkhand) of the mineral-rich state. Interestingly, these two districts together produced over 70 percent of India’s mica. However, till date, there remain only two license holders, in each area.

Two decades down the line, Indian Mines Bureau (IMB) which brings out an annual book on Indian Minerals, in its latest edition has officially maintained that Jharkhand has ceased producing mica since 2013. The book also maintains that there has been a huge decline in mica production across the country.

According to The Indian Mineral Year Book 2015, which was released in December 2016, there are only 31 mica mines that are operational in India. And that in 2013-14, India produced only 21,412 tonnes. But, when it came to export, the figure is as high as-- 1,27,882 tonnes.

Interestingly, in the year 2014-15, mica industry, as per official figure, had witnessed a 40 per cent decline in production. Legally, only 12,488 tonnes mica were produced. But, despite all, India exported 1,40,960 tonnes of mica. Thereby, clearly ringing the alarm bells, as to how India was exporting more mica than it was actually producing?

However, the president of Mica Exporters Association, Jharkhand, Rajendra Bagaria claims, “IMB only assesses production of mica. They don’t report on the waste mica lying around even after 100 years of mining.” Thereby, accounting these waste mica to be the source of mica exports.

But, IMB’s table said the production include crude, and waste as well as scrap. When interrupted, the association president stands on his statement that dump (waste and scrap, known as Dhibra) do not get assessed by IMB.

“And after using that dhibra, which were there on raiyati (not forest) lands of some person, we were giving three and a half percent cess to the central government, while exporting. We were also telling successive state governments since long to survey such dumps and take a royalty,” adds Bagaria. 

According to him, one such dump has been assessed containing mica worth Rs 218 crores.

If you browse through some websites that have data related to mica export, then it reveals that from Jharkhand only, through Kolkata sea route, companies export more mica than what has been officially quoted as total production.

And China alone, according to IMB records, imported 88,146 tonnes of mica in 2014-15. It is easily understandable that since long there has been large scale mica excavation going from the ‘ghost’ mines of Jharkhand. And because of this, the government is losing out on royalties worth billions of rupees annually.

However, this is not the sole problem. Using children to gather the mica scraps from areas surrounding the deserted mines, is a bigger concern, as it is hazardous to health and has even caused the death of a few children.

In 2016 only, six children had died within a period of three months. Thereby, not only alerting the central and state governments, but also make car companies like Audi, Volkswagen and BMW investigate the sources of their car paint. All this forced the Jharkhand government to finally take some initiatives.

“We are surveying the areas where mica scraps or mica mines are functioning. Geologists have also been put on a job. So far we have identified 10 such spots where dhibras are dumped in huge scale. We have started the process to legalise these spots. In fact, we have even put up an advertisement to announce the auction of these sites,” said Commissioner of Mines, Aboobacker Siddiqui to eNewsroom.

A day after the advertisement was published, Giridih police registered FIRs against eight people who had stored mica scraps without any license.

However, the commissioner, along with others, is also clueless about the huge gap in production and export quantity of mica, “We had no idea about it, but as we have started the legalisation process, we will try to bring every scrap mica spot and mines under the government,” adds Siddiqui.

Surprisingly, the British Geological Survey in 2005, had found that Koderma has the largest deposit of mica in the world. However, a government of India has recently denotified mica from the ‘major’ mineral category.

© e-Newsroom News

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