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Energy Resources of Australia (ERA), the operators of the controversial Ranger uranium mine in Kakadu, will appear in court in Darwin tomorrow (Friday, February 4) to answer charges over a series of severe contamination events at the mine in 2004.
In March 2004 around 150 people were exposed to drinking water containing uranium levels 400 times greater than the maximum Australian safety standard.
Twenty-eight mineworkers suffered adverse health effects including vomiting and skin irritation as a result of the exposure and ERA is now facing prosecution for breaching key provisions of the Northern Territory Mining Management Act.
Further legal and regulatory action against ERA is expected in the future.
The recent contamination event at Ranger is the latest in over 120 leaks, spills and license breaches since the mine opened in 1981. Despite this record this is the first time the company has been prosecuted - a move welcomed by environment groups.
Aging infrastructure and a deficient safety and management culture at the Ranger mine has seen the frequency and severity of incidents increase in recent years.
Environmental groups are calling on ERA, majority owned by the British based mining giant Rio Tinto, to abandon further exploration plans at Ranger and instead detail its clean up, rehabilitation and exit plans for the controversial site.