The challenge facing Greenland regarding it’s gemstone deposits is complicated. A profound injustice has been done to the citizens of the Island of Greenland which we will attempt to outline below. As with all cases of indigenous rights, mineral rights and colonial power, the situation in Greenland; as in all other First Nation issues across north America is bound to both history, ethnic and indigenous cultural marginalisation, political manipulation and economic exploitation. Greenland is no different in these regards. The Greenland Ruby has become a symbol of a much wider cultural, political and economic struggle for Arctic people wishing to live a life and earn a livelihood according to their own customs, and the principle of self-determination. The Free Greenland Ruby Campaign is owned by Greenlanders and is an expression of their vision for a Greenland where the resources of the land, benefit the people of the land.
On the 16 August 2007 local citizens of the Danish Colony of Greenland (Kalaallit Nunaat) had their indigenous rights to earn a living from gemstone deposits, summarily removed by the authorities at the behest of the Canadian exploratory mining company True North Gems (TNG). This action was in violation of both the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People  , as well as the then existing law of the Minerals Act under Article 32.
Before 16 August 2007 it was well known and widely practiced that native inhabitants of Greenland had the common right to hunt, fish and collect minerals anywhere they please on the Isalnd of Greenland, as was their tradition. Where ever there isn’t an exclusive exploitation license for an operating mine with a fence around it for a specific mineral, Greenlanders enjoyed rights of access guaranteed by law and custom. For thousands of years, Greenlanders out hunting and fishing have gathered stones for building material, heat and sustenance, tools and weapons, and, of course, for jewelry. The Greenland Ruby has been cherished by native people in art and culture for generations.
Communally, we all own the land (or does the land own us?). Greenlanders have the right to take those minerals that we can hand mine and carry. Such as we always have done, like our fathers before us. Niels Madsen – Founder of 16 August Union.
The removal of these traditional rights was triggered by the illegal arrest of an American Gemmologist and Geologist William Rothert, who was a former employee of True North Gems and the confiscation of ruby that had been given to him by Greenlandic friends and former colleagues at TNG. In solidarity with their arrested friend, a number of recently sacked TNG workers, set up camp and began to collect ruby crystal on the ‘non-exclusive exploration’ site of TNG. This ‘non-exclusive exploration’ wording is key, as legally it meant that TNG or the Police had the legal right to remove native Greenlanders from the location. the Greenlanders had every right to be there and also every right to protest what they considered to be, and was subsequently proven to be the illegal arrest of their former colleague.
This led to colonial interpretations of the law, prejudicial to native Greenlanders and the subsequent law changes that have in the opinion of the local people made the situation worse not better.
The Home Rule Law of 1978 was Step 1 in the devolution towards independence of Greenland. It was and is a “hometaking” of some of the areas comprising the colonial Danish political control, which are far-better managed in Greenland by the Greenlanders. Under Article 8, the law and its precedents ensure the people’s rights to ruby collecting for sales purposes, so as to encourage the local business, and to provide an income for the citizens. The population of Greenland has the fundamental right to its natural resources. Under the Home Rule, surface mineral rights are governed through the Mineral’s Act, wherein the earlier Article 1 (§ 1) was superseded by Article 32 (§32) in which the keyword industrial was arbitrarily (without consultation) changed to commercial, meaning that mineral business requires a permit of some kind, depending on the circumstances.
Greenland’s Bureau of Minerals and Petroleum (BMP), in regulating mineral rights under Article 32, suddenly in 2007 began to interpret the statute in a manner hostile to the best interests of the local villagers in the ruby fields. The BMP equates the word commercial with the outdated and misleading term semi-precious vs precious, a term in violation of international convention, resulting in an inaccurate and inappropriate exercise of Article 32. Previously, the BMP had permitted mining and export of ruby by the Greenlanders, but in August of 2007, that changed dramatically with the harassment the members of the Union; including: denial of prospecting licenses; and, denial of export permits. The actions of the BMP at the time were designed to serve the interests of a foreign mining company exploring for ruby at the expense of the citizens of the land, whose best interest they are payed to protect and serve.
Lars Lund Sorensen, the deputy to J.S. Nielsen (Then head of the BMP), said to William Rothert emphatically on 21 July 2007 in Nuuk regarding Captain Christian de Renouard and his colleagues working with ruby: “we don’t want those kind of people making that kind of money”. Later on, Lars Lund Sorensen left the BMP and ended up consulting with Grontmij engineering consultants that worked for True North Gems (TNG) on their Environmental Impact Study (EIS) and Social Impact Assessment (SIA) required for conversion of the exploration license to an exploitation license.
In 2004, the head of the Bureau of Minerals and Petroleum (BMP), and his staff, told the first management of True North Gems ruby exploration company about the right’s of the Greenlandic population to go about and collect ruby and hunt anywhere they wanted. The BMP made sure the mining company knew that the law permitted Inuit the traditional collecting, working and selling of the world-famous “Fiskenaesset Ruby” and Pink Sapphire.
The BMP arbitrarily changed their minds and policy in 2007 without notice.
In co-ordination with the Canadian mining company, the Greenland Police sailed a police ship with crew and three (3) armed policemen and a BMP official down from the Capitol of Nuuk to the village of Fiskenaesset. From there, the BMP and police escort flew the last distance to the ruby fields in the Canadian exploration company’s helicopter to serve the Inuit a written order to stop all activity. The people were told to leave or face arrest. They had to leave their camp behind and walk home. The 5 legal protesters were arrested, in contravention of the law and had their property confiscated. The 5 protestors arrested are; Neils Madsen, Jens Mikkel Fly, Inga Egede,