A versatile group of materials, micas have a range of uses in the electronics sector and are also widely used in cosmetics
Micas are a group of minerals characterised by their extreme versatility. Mica’s flexibility, elasticity and low thermal and electrical conductivity mean that the material is widely used across a range of industries. Essential for the electronics sector, particularly as insulators, mica is also used to make products like cosmetics and paint shimmer. Mica is mined all around the world, with China, Finland, and the United States being the top three producers in 2020 according to US Geological Survey data.
TDi’s ESG data indicates that mica is strongly associated with child labour and other labour rights issues. Reports of child labour in the mica supply chain focus on India and Madagascar, which together account for around 12 percent of global production. This has resulted in particular scrutiny of cosmetics companies’ supply chains, with at least one significant downstream company pledging to eliminate mica from its products. Other sectors that consume mica do not yet appear to have faced the same level of scrutiny over the material’s association with child labour.
Main Uses and Attributes
Micas are a group of minerals; there are 37 different types.1https://mineralseducationcoalition.org/minerals-database/mica/ Individual mica crystals can easily be split into extremely thin elastic plates.2https://mineralseducationcoalition.org/minerals-database/mica/ The most common include purple lepidolite, black biotite, brown phlogopite and clear muscovite.3https://mineralseducationcoalition.org/minerals-database/mica/ Mica is common in igneous and metamorphic rock and is also found in small flakes in sedimentary rock.
Micas are extremely versatile. Muscovite and phlogopite micas are characterised by their flexibility and elasticity, infusibility, low thermal and electrical conductivity, and high dielectric strength.4https://www.britannica.com/science/mica/Origin-and-occurrence These types of mica are used in products ranging from parts for electronics and automobiles, and are used in paints and cosmetics to add “shimmer”. Mica with these compositions is also used in electrical condensers, as insulation sheets between commutator segments, or in heating elements.5https://www.britannica.com/science/mica/Origin-and-occurrence
Ground mica is used in many ways, such as a dusting medium to prevent, for example, asphalt tiles from sticking to each other, and as a filler, absorbent, and lubricant.6https://www.britannica.com/science/mica/Origin-and-occurrence In the paint industry, ground mica is used as a pigment extender that also facilities suspension due to its light weight and platy morphology. It also reduces chalking, prevents shrinkage and shearing of the paint film, and provides increased resistance to water penetration and weathering.7https://mineralseducationcoalition.org/minerals-database/mica/ Lepidolite has been mined as an ore of lithium, with rubidium generally recovered as a by-product – this is used in the manufacturing of heat-resistant glass.8https://www.britannica.com/science/mica/Origin-and-occurrence
In terms of electrical industries, micas are often used as electrical insulators in electronic equipment, thermal insulation, in stoves and kerosene heaters, dielectrics in capacitors, decorative panels in lamps, insulation in electric motors and generator armatures, field coil insulation, and magnet and commutator core insulation.9https://mineralseducationcoalition.org/minerals-database/mica/ In 2015, electronics industries were the biggest purchasers of mica, holding 26 percent of global purchases.10https://www.somo.nl/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/NL180313_GLOBAL-MICA-MINING-.pdf Paints and coatings followed at 24 percent, construction at 20, and cosmetics at approximately 18 percent.11https://www.somo.nl/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/NL180313_GLOBAL-MICA-MINING-.pdf
Supply Chain Risk
TDi assesses Mica for key risks affecting the security of supply, and for its association with artisanal and small-scale mining.
Country Governance Risks
Mica's association with countries experiencing:
Association with ESG issues
TDi Sustainability's data rates Mica's association with the following issues as high or very high: