History of an industry remains buried in two ponds of Maickamone
A century old mica mine lies in Maickamone, a village of Piravanthur in Kollam. The two vast ponds and the tunnels hidden in its depth have a buried history to unveil. The soft sands in the banks of the ponds glimmer with the deposits of mica in it. Only a few natives of Maickamone can recollect the memories of mica industry which once thrived in the Kollam region, and the stories of those who lost their lives when the tunnels in the mine collapsed.
The name of the village ‘Maickamone’ itself means ‘soil of mica’ and a nearby village is called as ‘Kakka ponnu’. Once, those glittering minerals had that much influence in the daily lives of the people. Most of the natives in the village are descendants of those who reached Maickamone from nearby states to work in the mines.
It was the colonialists who started mining in Kollam. “Through mining, they looted our resources to meet the expenses of their home country and also used our minerals as the raw materials for their emerging weapon industry”, said Professor Shivdas.
After independence, it was taken up by the corporates of the country itself. A firm based in Andhra Pradesh resumed mining in Maickamone after the British and later it moved through the hands of several corporates. The last one was a firm from Tamil Nadu and in mid 1970s, they halted all mining activities.
“Many workers have lost their lives while working inside the mine. There was also an incident in which many got killed with the collapse of an underground tunnel. After this mishap, mining stopped in Maickamone. Mica mines are not scarce in India. So they never came back to rebuild it”, said Ranjith, a former ward member of Piravanthur.
The mines were connected by three tunnels. Men went into the caverns of mine and cut out mica from the underground. Women were also employed in the mines. But they did not dare to go deep into it, instead they stayed outside and cut these mined mineral rocks into required shapes. Then they categorised mica into A, B, C and D groups according to their quality.
Now the mines had turned as two deep ponds. The remnants and machinery of mining still lay under the waters. The concerned departments have not conducted any studies or excavations in this region so far. When mathrubhumi.com contacted the Department of Mining and Geology in Kollam, they denied the existence of any such mines.
Many such abandoned and active mines are there in Kollam. The district has witnessed several people’s agitations against both the government and corporates who scramble their underground minerals which also led to many events of land erosions in the district.
Uses of Mica
Mica is a group of minerals that can be split into super-thin layers. It has a crystalline structure and looks like glass.
They are used in paints, drywall/ gypsum wallboard and fillers. This group of minerals are good insulators and have several applications in roofing, well drilling and the automobile industry. It is also a major component in cosmetic products including lipstick, eyeliner, foundation, blushes, moisturisers and many more.
Phlogopite mica found in Maickamone
Commonly two different types of mica have been found in Kerala. They are phlogopites and muscovites. These varieties of mica were mined from Punalur in Kollam and Kayana in Kozhikode district.
Among them, phlogopite was the variant extracted from Maickamone. It is yellowish, yellow-brownish or greenish in colour. It is also called as magnesium mica.