Brazil fines Samarco 142 million reais for damages to protected areas

A view of the Samarco mine, owned by Vale SA and BHP Billiton Ltd, in Mariana, Brazil, April 12, 2016. REUTERS/Washington Alves

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Brazil’s Environment Ministry fined mining company Samarco 142 million reais ($41.6 million) for damages to three protected areas resulting from a tailings dam burst in November, the ministry said on Friday.

The ministry said in a statement the three areas on the coast of Espirito Santo state were contaminated by metals such as lead, coper and cadmium. The metals spilled from the dam and were carried all the way from Minas Gerais through the Doce River to the ocean.

Experts from the Environmental Ministry found several species had been wiped out in the contaminated areas, the statement said.

Samarco, a joint venture between Brazil’s Vale SA and BHP Billiton, has shut its iron ore operation in Mariana, Minas Gerais state, since the accident late last year.

The company sealed a deal with the Brazilian government in March to pay as much as $5.1 billion over 15 years for damages resulting from the dam burst.

In a statement late on Friday, Samarco confirmed the new fines and said it was evaluating a possible appeal.

It said all necessary works and associated costs to mitigate damages resulting from the spill were already included in the March deal, which was also signed by the ministry.

Reporting by Marcelo Teixeira; Editing by Cynthia Osterman