The Discovery of Greenlandic Rubies

Nathalia Sofie Brichet (Aarhus) will give a talk titled "The Discovery of Greenlandic Rubies".

In this talk, Nathalia Sofie Brichet will discuss the different ideas about the discovery of Greenlandic rubies and thus the dating of them in order to address how the science of geology plays a part in the incipient Greenlandic mining adventure.

Brichet will to discuss what the contested moment of discovery made visible and eclipsed as a way to qualify the political aspects of both natural resources and a science with a self-understanding as apolitical, objective and neutral.

Abstract from the lecturer

Small houses on rocky ground in Greenland.
Local treasure hunters claim that local people have always known about the ruby deposits at Aappaluttoq. Illustration photo: (CC0 1.0)

As part of my on-going fieldwork on the mining industry in Greenland I am interested in the production of geological knowledge as performed by Danish and Greenlandic scientists.

This particular and highly specialized knowledge production seems vital in figuring natural resources in a country with vast expanse and a heterogeneous ground. In my fieldwork material, geological knowledge production materializes as surveys, collections, pulverizations, separations, identifications, calculations, illustrations, presentations and not least through dates – a practice that will be key to this talk about Greenlandic rubies.

My own as well as my interlocutors’ interest was ignited by the establishment of a high tech ruby mine in the southwestern part of Greenland called the Aappaluttoq mine – the first mine to open after a gold mine closed down in 2013 and a decade of high expectations to the mining sector. Soon ‘the ruby project’ as it was called also became an important asset in showing the richness of Greenland’s underground to international exploration and mining companies, not to mention the necessary investors on the lookout for new mining projects.

From the viewpoint of the Greenlandic government, the ruby project became a site to showcase the rich potential of mining in Greenland.

In this environment, the government needs support and collaboration from the local population in order to convey a mining-friendly attitude towards international interest groups. Such support, however, is not a given, nor is geological knowledge a trump that settles the ground.

During my fieldwork, this became clear when a disagreement about the discovery of rubies momentarily threatened the smooth path of ruby production that both business and government had planned and hoped for. Local treasure hunters claim that local people have always known about the ruby deposits at Aappaluttoq, while the Danish Geological Survey dates the find to the 1960s and credits a named geologist for identifying the resource.

About the lecturer

Nathalia Brichet is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Aarhus, Denmark.

Her research centers on extractive industries in Greenland and Denmark, focusing mainly on gold, rubies and brown coal.

In addition, Brichet is engaged in exhibition work—using fieldwork to collect, discuss and exhibit anthropological analyses in collaboration with people she engages with, be they interlocutors, curators or colleagues from museums in Denmark, Ghana, Great Britain, Greenland, and USA. She has curated collaborative exhibitions at the National Museum of Denmark, National Museum of Ghana and at Moesgaard Museum in Denmark.

Tags: History, Governance, Geology
Published Jan. 26, 2018 2:32 PM - Last modified Jan. 26, 2018 2:32 PM