With rubies from Myanmar/Burma being banned by many Western countries
, the hunt has been on for rubies that come from a less politically sensitive area. In the last few years, there has been increasing exploration for rubies in Greenland. Just as Canadian diamonds are sometimes seen as an easy way around the potential harmful associations with some African diamonds, Greenland's rubies seem like a no-conflict solution, one that could benefit both the companies investing and Greenland's people.
But as Marc Choyt over at Fair Jewelry
points out, that may not be the case. He has written a series of posts that go into great depth on this complex issue. To summarize: for years, Greenland's Inuit people have come across rubies and picked them up on their travels and sometimes sold them but now with big companies such as True North Gems exploring the area for ruby deposits, some Greenlanders feel they are being pushed away from the ruby business. They assert that the rough ruby shown at right, valued at half a million dollars was confiscated from its Inuit owner and that it is just part of a campaign to keep the Greenland people out of the potentially lucrative mining business.
The story of what's happening in Greenland is complicated and Marc's done a very thorough job of looking at both sides. He traces the journey of Neils Madsen, a Greenlander who found himself caught up in the ruby battle simply because he wished to dig for rubies in an area where exploration was taking place. A conflict with people working for True North Gems and the government led to him forming the August 16th Union (the confrontation took place on August 16, 2007), a group whose objective was to secure the rights of all Greenlanders to artisanally mine and sell rubies. Right now Greenlanders are now allowed only to sell semiprecious gems, not precious gems. Madsen has circulated a petition on behalf of the August 16th Union, demanding the rights to have small scale mining and selling of rubies as guaranteed under Article 32. This petition has gathered 2600 signatures, which is four and a half percent of the entire nation of 57,000.
He also interviewed Andrew Lee Smith, Founder and CEO of True North Gems who says he and his company support of small scale mining and selling of rubies by Native Greenlanders as long as it is done within the parameters of the law (and as long as his company has the right to explore and potentially mine rubies in compliance with the laws of Greenland.) He believes that the August 16 Union's main issue is not with True North Gems but with the existing laws of Greenland and that the union is a loud, radical minority.
True North does keep a chain of custody and assurance of source on the stones so that the Greenland rubies aren't mixed with rubies from other places which is what happened initially with Canadian diamonds. Right now the company isn't selling materials since they need the consent of the Greenland government and a mining license (currently they are still in the exploration phase). They are hoping to establish a commercial ruby operation in Greenland and sell the stones as Greenland branded material.
Over at Fair Jewelry you can sign the petition
to support the rights of native Greenlanders to mine the stones from their own land.