National Geographic : 1946 Apr
The National Geographic Magazine Geoloial Survey of India Working as a Family in a Mica Mine, Men Dig Ore, Women Carry It on Their Heads In addition, the wives split the mineral "books" into thin sheets, an operation still not done satisfactorily by machinery. This open pit in Bihar illustrates the "Usually it is braced haphazardly .. .accidents are shaft (page 503). large as 80 inches square. In most cases the mica is trimmed, cut to the desired shape, and split into sheets or films a few hundredths of an inch thick in open-air sheds or "fac tories" within a mile or two of the mine. In its role of most interested customer, the United States Army gave all the help it could to the mica miners. It even provided some jeeps-far more precious than jewels in India - to haul supplies to the mica diggings and bring out the finished product during the mon soon season when no other vehicle could get over the sodden roads. Monkeys Hindered Mica Hunting There was one other obstacle to production which even the Army dared not tackle: mon keys. Large colonies of the little rhesus author's observation about India's typical mica mine: common." Rains may start a landslip or flood the monkeys roam through the jungles and villages of Bihar, and occasionally they do serious damage to the scanty fields of rice and millet. During the 1943 famine, in particular, such damage became a matter of real concern, and many a miner left the mica pits to guard his few acres of growing crops. Because of Hindu feeling about monkeys, however, no one dared kill them.* One day a mine owner walked into the Mica Mission headquarters at Calcutta and an nounced that he had solved the monkey prob lem. "It was simple," he explained. "I just hired three boxcars, set them on a railway siding * See, in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, by William M. Mann, "Monkey Folk," May, 1938, and "Man's Closest Counterparts (Apes)," August, 1940.