The Apartheid Ruby of Greenland.
Surely this cannot be, the word Apartheid is a strong word to apply to such a benign idea as Ruby from Greenland. Yet unfortunately and to the shame of Denmark and Greenland this is exactly what is happening. Inuit and Greenlanders are being intentionally marginalised from prospecting, owning and selling ruby from the very island that is their home.
As this photo demonstrates Greenland is rich in Ruby yet through institutional bureaucracy, corporate collusion and ethnic stereotyping the Bureau for Minerals and Petroleum (BMP) have prevented local people from creating a livelihood for themselves as the words of Lars Lund Sorensen (BMP) in July 2007 demonstrate, “We don’t want ‘those’ people making that kind of money”.
Until the documentation of valuable gem deposits in Greenland, Inuits were allowed to gather, polish and sell gem material. Once exceptionally valuable ruby was documented by True North Gems, the BMP issued completely new mining laws and moved to exclude local people from the ruby deposits.
“Once an applications is filed to mine, the BMP delays or outright refuses to issue licenses,” said Madsen a spokesperson for the 16th August Union, “We also want to benefit from the ruby we already collected and legally own and pay fair taxes, but at present that is not possible.”
Indigenous Greenlanders had always been permitted to hunt, mine and fish according to traditional methods and they have a unique historical and traditional relationship with the ‘Inik Amak‘ meaning the ‘eternal fire’ or ‘the flame that never goes out’ that is a beautiful way to describe the ruby. However when the local people became empowered and broke out of the Danish Colonial stereo type of using low grade ruby for native ethnic carvings and wanted to cut and polish stones of gem quality value and sell to the world market, the ethnic Danish administration (BMP) broke their own mining laws (section 32 of the previous mineral code) to stop Greenlanders from earning a living.
There is a serious moral disconnect in the current situation in Greenland. The fact that bureaucrats can dictate, based on European colonial legislation whether a local person can own a ruby picked up from the ground seems grounded in ignorance at best and at worst a cynical piece of racial prejudice. Even the new pro Inuit government seems to have been deceived by the so-called small-scale mining gemstone experts who by their own confession; ‘Have no knowledge of artisanal and small-scale mining in the gemstone sector‘ (Jorn Skov Nielsen Director of BMP). The Greenland Ombudsman judged that the BMP had acted outside of their powers in ordering the arrest and the confiscation of ruby gathered by local small-scale miners.
What this means for the jeweller is that you cannot buy a Greenland Ruby from the hand of a local person.
This story continues to define local politics in Greenland and responsible jewellers will boycott Ruby sold from Greenland until locals are allowed to make a living from the stones they love. The call to action is to write to the BMP Director Jorn Skov Nielsen (email JSN@gh.gl) and petition for legislation in the mining act that supports local people to create a livelihood from Ruby and other gemstones so responsible jewellers can buy stones from the hand of local people.
What’s needed is for common sense to prevail over bureaucracy.
For more information on how to support the Inuit in their campaign to make a living from Greenland Ruby, please contact Niels Madsen (firstname.lastname@example.org) spokesperson for 16th August Union. Other useful articles on the issue can be found at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2010/03/prweb3690824.htm or visit www.fairjewelry.org or contact me directly.