International hearing to spotlight tribal backlash over uranium mining

By Hannah Northey | 02/26/2024 01:32 PM EST

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights will hear from representatives of Native American tribes.

A warning sign at the old Kerr-McGee uranium mill site.

A warning sign at the old Kerr-McGee uranium mill site is shown in December 2007 on open land close to Mount Taylor near Grants, New Mexico. Susan Montoya Bryan/AP

Western tribes are poised to argue this week that the federal government has violated its obligations to protect human rights by failing to clean up thousands of abandoned uranium mines, while also promoting new projects in the name of tackling climate change.

Members of the Navajo Nation, Ute Nation and Oglala Lakota Nation, as well as a lawyer from the New Mexico Environmental Law Center, will deliver that message to a panel of an international commission Wednesday. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, an independent arm of the Organization of American States, is holding the hearing as part of a multiday meeting in Washington.
multiday meeting

“For decades, the U.S. government’s dismal human rights record related to uranium exploitation in Indigenous communities has been overlooked, ignored and suppressed,” Eric Jantz, the legal director for New Mexico Environmental Law Center, said in a release. “This will be the first time the U.S. government has been called on to explain why U.S. uranium policy continues to destroy native communities.”


An official from the U.S. government is slated to appear at the hearing, according to the commission’s website, but the group did not immediately respond when asked to identify the witness.