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Seeing red - Free Greenland Ruby

Seeing red - Free Greenland Ruby

Conflict diamonds hit the headlines in a big way - with a little help from Hollywood blockbuster, Blood Diamond - and while few would claim the issues are now resolved (read about the latest upset at the Kimberley Process), at least the word is out there and we know the questions to ask to track down that elusive, ethical engagement ring.

Much less well known is the controversy around the blood-red ruby. A legal war is waging in Greenland as the native Inuit Greenlanders fight for their rights to prospect for the ruby through small-scale, responsible mining just as their ancestors have done for centuries.

The 16th August Union

On 16th August 2007, native Inuit Greenlanders were arrested for mining ruby. True North Gems (TNG), a Canadian mining company, informed on the Inuit to the local police who were told by The Bureau for Minerals and Petroleum (BMP) to stop them prospecting for ruby - even though this violated the Danish Government's own Mineral Code and the UN Declaration of Human & Indigenous Rights.

Soon after, there was a clamp down across the island on the rights of indigenous people to mine. Mr. Lars Lund Sorensen, the head of a division at the Minerals Office at the time, said:

"We don’t want your sort of people having access to this kind of wealth."

The BMP then set about hiring lawyers who would twist interpretations of Danish laws to cover up their behaviour and protect the interests of TNG. They even instructed the Crown Prosecution Service to prosecute local people but offered to drop charges against miners if they signed paperwork stating they will not mine again. Where this bribe was refused, they issued fines.

Free Greenland Ruby

Determined to fight back, the Greenlanders started their own small-scale mining union called the 16th August Union to uphold their right to mine ruby and to act as a united voice to the Greenland people and the world. They regard their local government to be acting in collusion with the foreign national mining corporation, TNG to create a ruby monopoly to the exclusion of all native Greenlanders.


The Union believes that the natural resources of Greenland belong first and foremost to their native peoples and asks that:

1) the inherent right of every native Greenlander to prospect, responsibly mine, cut, polish and sell their minerals is respected;

2) Section 32 of the Mineral Code that enshrines their cultural and historical rights to make a living from ruby is upheld;

3) they are treated in a democratic and transparent way with respect to their native traditions and world view;

4) the global community, civil society groups and the international jewellery industry support their just cause.

Read an introduction to the 16th August Union

Sign the petition

The 16th August Union are asking you to sign their online petition in support of their indigenous rights to mine ruby on the island of Greenland and to make a living out of responsible, small scale mining. The petition will be sent to the Home Rule Parliament of Greenland.

They ask for their rights to be enshrined in a clear, transparent law based on the following simple idea:

"The fundamental rights for indigenous and native Greenlanders under section 32 of the current Constitution to be able to collect, transform, commercialize and export all natural minerals of any sort. (Except oil, gas and radioactive elements in areas with a monopoly)."

Read and sign the full Greenland Ruby petition


What next?

Fair trade jewellery activist, Greg Valerio of Cred Jewellery has got well and truly on board with the Free Greenland Ruby campaign. When Greenland got home rule on 21 June, Greg was there to negotiate with the new Home Rule Government in support of the 16th August Union. Find out how the campaign is progressing with Greg's updates on the Fair Trade Jewelry Blog.

Images from FreeGreenlandRuby.com