TARANTA-BAS, Madagascar — A boy climbs out of a pit in the ground and shields his eyes from the sun. His hands and feet are covered in dust, his T-shirt and shorts covered in rips.
The boy has spent the last several hours working inside the pit. Now above ground, he proudly holds up an example of his labor: a silvery sheet of mica, the iridescent mineral shimmering in the afternoon light.
The boy is 10 years old, but he doesn’t go to school. He works for much of the day — and sometimes through the night — crawling through pitch-black tunnels inside the makeshift mine, his fingers picking through the earth, collecting and sorting shards of mica.
The minerals he picks up will soon make their way through an opaque supply chain from Africa to Asia before landing in millions of products — electronics, appliances, even trains — that wind up in America.
“My mother doesn’t make enough money,” says the boy, whose name is Manjoraza. “So I have to help her make money.”