Greenland-based mining company Greenland Ruby announced this week that it’s become the first colored gemstone mining operation to earn a Mining Certification from the Responsible Jewelry Council (RJC).
U.K.-based Responsible Jewelry Council (RJC) uses independent auditing to assess a companies’ operations to ensure that they meet the organization’s high bar for corporate ethics and sustainability. The organization was founded in 2005 by 14 high-profile organizations, many of them—including Tiffany & Co., Jewelers of American, Cartier, Rio Tinto, and Signet Group—are titans within the jewelry and gem industries.
In 2019, RJC released a revised Code of Practices Standard, which for the first time included miners of ruby, emerald and sapphire; Greenland Ruby’s mine produces ruby and pink sapphire. RJC’s audit of Greenland Ruby began in August 2021, and the company achieved certification in December 2021.
The young, sustainability-focused company opened its ruby and pink sapphire mining operation in Aappaluttoq, in southwest Greenland, in May 2017. It has formal mine-to-market track-and-trace inventory control system for its gems, which has been approved by the Greenlandic government. Each parcel of rough material has a number, allocated at export from Greenland; all the gems produced from that parcel are given their own individual number linked to it; and these numbers stay with each gem through heat treatment (in Thailand, an industry standard for rubies), cutting and sales. Gemstones over 1 ct. come with a certificate of origin that bears a unique number and authentication of its origin and journey from the mine.
“I wouldn’t say getting certified by RJC was an easy feat, because it wasn’t,” Greenland Ruby vice president of sales and marketing, Hayley Henning, tells The Zing Report. “But we’re a relatively new mining operation and everything we do has been held to the highest of Northern European standards. It’s not as if we really had to change anything to comply—all of these elements were in place.”
But the industry veteran adds that being certified was very important to the company, “because we feel as an industry this is really the next step in colored gemstone sourcing. As it was in the diamond industry 20 years ago when people were saying [change] can’t happen, it’s happening for colored stones now. It’s a journey and it has to happen.”
And ultimately, the demands are originating from the jewelry consumer. “The new consumer is asking for more transparency, traceability and to understand how gems find their way out of the mines and…onto their fingers and necks,” says Henning. “Questions are being asked of our industry. We’re like no other industry; there’s a reputation there that we have to clean up. We are setting an example in the industry of how to do things better.”
Unlike many colored gemstone mines, which tend to be small and artisanal as opposed to De Beers-style big and industrial, the Aappaluttoq mine is a large-scale mining operation, and uses commercial machinery, some of it not typically found in colored stone mining. The company is part of the LNS Group, a Norwegian, family-owned corporation with deep experience crunching through the frozen tundra—LNS handles mining contracts, road projects, bridges and tunnels in arctic regions.
Thirty-five percent of Greenland Ruby’s workforce is female, and all workers on site at the mine are Greenlanders. The miner digs up 250,000 tons of ruby-bearing rock every year from deep within Aappaluttoq’s remote, icy landscape.
The pinks and reds it unearths are over three billion years old, and the company discovered early on, through independent scientific analysis, that their fiery stones among the oldest gems on the planet. —Emili Vesilind