Greenland Ruby

Greenland Ruby

Greenland Ruby

Plenty of Ruby for everyone as long as you are Canadian.

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.

Traditional Ruby Prospecting – A beautiful way of life.

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 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 ( spokesperson for 16th August Union. Other useful articles on the issue can be found at or visit or contact me directly.


  • Reply
    Ian Plantagenet
    March 18, 2010 at 7:25 pm

    Good to meet you Greg, when can we schedule a further meeting and filmed interview.?

    Best Wishes


  • Reply
    March 20, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    The age old issue of land theft!

  • Reply
    jenn dewey
    October 14, 2011 at 8:58 pm

    Smacks of the atrocities against the native American tribes… and the native tribes of all continents, it seems. Shouldn’t the world take up learning from the natives, for a more sustainable future… rather than repeatedly stealing from them?

  • Reply
    May 29, 2013 at 8:41 pm

    I passed this along to Pippa Small, jewelry designer and Survival International Ambassador; hope she gets it via her website contact. She has helped many local communities prosper from local resources through jewelry making, so this a cause close to her heart.

  • Reply
    Timothy J. Bean
    February 9, 2015 at 10:26 am

    In the United States of America, the government for many years used underhanded and malicious tactics and political devices to thwart our Native Americans rights of the land. They (Natives) never had a concept that one could own the mother earth which was for all creatures to benefit from because all creatures benefit from the symbiotic relationship. The current law in Greenland is unjust, unsustainable and highly prejudicial. If anyone wants to see the future of what is going to occur in Greenland just look to what has happened in the Black Hills of the Dakotas in America. The Inuit people’s are a humble and peace living people. However, you can only deny the life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for a short time because the natives will stop asking for rights which governments must apply to every citizen. They will simply take them. Equal liberty or Revolution? In France it started over a shortage of bread. If the Danish are fair they may come out on the winning side or come out with nothing at all. I have a hard time believing this actually happening in this era. I will relent to this: Stupid is as stupid does!

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