Fair Jewelry Action Report Explores Greenland’s Gem Industry

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Press Release: Greenland has an opportunity to maximize the economic and social benefits of its natural resources through an inclusive approach to gemstone mining, according to an independent report. 

Published by Fair Jewelry Action (FJA), the study, ”Creating a Prosperous and Inclusive Gemstone Industry in Greenland,” has received the full support of the 16th August Union, a miners association campaigning to re-establish the rights of Greenlanders to collect gemstones in Greenland.

The report highlights how the strategic inclusion of traditional mining rights to exploit Greenland’s gemstone resources would generate greater economic and social benefit for the country than by industrial mining alone.fair trade jewellery

A spokesperson for the 16th August Union, who did not want to be named for fear of reprisals, believes that the report is invaluable because it covers many elements in the ongoing conflict over who will control the mineral rights in Greenland.

Issues such as the human rights impact due to Greenland’s Bureau of Mines and Petroleum (BMP) mining act of 2009, the ongoing ruby conflict with True North Gems (TNG), a Canadian mining company, and ruby and sapphire pricing irregularities. The spokesperson also affirmed the report’s documentation of the historical injustices that have been perpetrated in the name of rubies and sapphires and how members of BMP acted beyond their powers.

“Because local people have been arrested by the BMP and had their ruby confiscated, and the courts have not prosecuted any cases in over five years, ruby and sapphire from TNG cannot be called ethical and ethnically conflict-free Greenlandic products.   Therefore, the market branding of Greenlandic gemstones will also become an issue. Furthermore, the opportunity to develop a gemstone polishing industry is being lost by exporting the ruby and sapphire as rough outside of Greenland. These marketing rights should be prohibited and only be branded by gemstones polished in Greenland,” said the spokesperson.

An Opportunity for the Greenlandic Government

The report suggests that to take advantage of this opportunity will require the Greenland home rule government to reinstate traditional prospecting and mining rights to indigenous Greenlanders.

Samuel Lowe, the lead researcher for the report stated, “Colored gemstone mining in Greenland is particularly suited to a complimentary approach whereby its resources can be exploited by both artisanal and industrial mining. However, unless the Greenland government reinstates mining rights to its people, the economic potential of its natural resources will not be fully realized.”

The report offers guidance on how the Greenland home rule government can provide institutional support for a future gemstone sector in Greenland, and at the same time become a leading example in respecting indigenous rights and promoting responsible environmental management.

Ian Doyle, the co-author, stated, “Exceptionally high-grade gemstones require exceptional vision and the Greenland government has the potential to be at the forefront of social innovation through a strategic approach to its gemstone sector.”

In the forward to the document, Greg Valerio, FJA co-founder and international campaigner and activist for fair trade and ethical practices in the jewelry sector,  emphasized how Greenland ruby could represent the sought after ‘exclusivity factor’ of jewelry.

“Apart from being a nation changing product, a gem-quality ruby or sapphire that enshrines the values of local community, responsible environmental small-scale mining, economic regeneration and human rights will be precisely the kind of gemstone the jewelry industry is looking to get behind. Surely this is what makes a gemstone precious,” said Valerio.

The special report follows on from FJA’s 2011 report ”Uplifting the Earth: The Ethical Performance of Luxury Jewellery Brands,” which received acclaim from the Centre of Studies on Sustainable Luxury.

Fair Jewelry Action
FJA  is a human rights and environmental justice network within the jewelry sector. FJA promotes ethical and fair trade jewelry practices by advocating traceability and transparency in the jewelry supply chain. www.fairjewelry.org

16th August Union is a Greenlandic organization run by local gemstone enthusiasts working for the citizen rights to freely collect alluvial gemstones and commercialize Greenlandic gemstones as to the former ‘common ownership’ principles of the citizens in Greenland, more information is available here www.freegreenlandruby.com.

Greg Valerio was the winner of The Observer Campaigner of the year award 2011.

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