Taranto, November 7 - Troubled steel manufacturer ILVA warned Wednesday that it will seek judicial relief from environmental shutdown orders, complaining it can't make any business plans while the orders are in place. "This company cannot, at present, make any declaration of commitment...or develop a business plan or outline financial forecasts," while much of its Taranto steelworks are shut down for environmental improvements, ILVA president Bruno Ferrante complained in a letter to the ministry of environment. It added that it will "soon" ask judicial authorities to release it from the shutdown order affecting Europe's largest steel plant. However, ILVA did not try to blame the controversy for its decision to lay off 2,000 of its 12,000 employees for 13 weeks beginning November 19; instead, it blamed weak market demand. ILVA has been at the centre of a major industrial and environmental dispute since July, when a court in this southern port city ordered the shutdown of its smelting facilities and mineral park, saying the steelworks was the source of an ongoing environmental disaster. The court accused ILVA of emitting toxic dust and other elements that threatened the health of nearby residents. The court-ordered partial shutdown sparked worker protests, strikes and a flurry of meetings between government and business leaders to find a way to save the plant, which is considered crucial for Italian industry and an important source of employment in Italy's underdeveloped south. ILVA's complaints come as the Italian government issued a challenge for the company to make the necessary investments in cleaning up its plant. "I expect that ILVA will concentrate on these challenges and invest because it is also the way to grow," Environment Minister Corrado Clini said Wednesday in Rimini. "If ILVA is under the illusion of being able to continue to produce without updating the technology, it's a mistake".