From nail polish to lipstick, mica is found in cosmetics that millions of people use every day.

But unknown to consumers, the mineral that gives these products their shine is often extracted using antiquated methods in slave-like conditions, in one of the poorest regions of the world.

In the dusty hills of Jharkhand, India, deep crevices have been cleaved into the hard earth. Men, women and children rummage through the dirt, using their bare hands and a few rudimentary tools to scrape the ground.

They work under the constant threat of landslides and toxic dust, risking their lives in the hope they will find and sell enough mica to survive.

"I would rather work in the mines than die of starvation," says a woman as she digs through the earth.

At another mine, Anil, 25, is searching through the rubble with his wife and their two young children. They live in a village at the foot of the mines, where there is no running water or electricity. Anil used to be a farmer, but a severe drought has left most of the land barren.

"Mica is the only option for us," he says. "We have all come here to work … so we can buy rice and feed ourselves."

From the impoverished miners to the mine owners and exporters who turn a blind eye to shocking conditions, 101 East traces the mica supply chain from the Indian countryside to the laboratories of major cosmetic brands in Europe.

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Source: Al Jazeera