Rome

Govt to fight prosecutors to keep ILVA steel plant open

Environment minister says decree due Thursday

Govt to fight prosecutors to keep ILVA steel plant open

Rome, November 27 - Environment Minister Corrado Clini said Tuesday that the government was ready to take on prosecutors in order to keep the troubled ILVA steel plant in the southern city of Taranto open. ILVA said Monday's court order for the seizure of steel and semi-finished products as part of a corruption probe that saw seven top managers arrested would lead to the "almost immediate" closure of the plant. The company said operations in other parts of Italy would be shut down too as a result. The Taranto plant's furnaces were placed under special administration in July following accusations emissions from them caused abnormally high levels of tumours and respiratory diseases in the Taranto area. Workers at the plant announced started a strike of at least 24 hours on Tuesday after ILVA said the country's biggest steel plant faced closure. White-collar staff at the huge site were persuaded to stop their occupation of some offices on Tuesday, although sit-ins continued at several gates. Employees at ILVA's Genoa plant, meanwhile, blocked the exit ramp from a motorway to protest against the hypothesis that their factory could close. ILVA and the government have been trying to keep the plant in operation while remediation measures necessary for ILVA to obtain environmental authorization (AIA) are carried out. Clini said the government would meet unions and company representatives on Thursday, adding that the aim was to find an agreement for a decree to keep the plant open. "Thursday's meeting won't just be talks. We are banking on coming out of it with measures, we are working on a decree for the application of the AIA," Clini said. "We are working with (Premier Mario) Monti and other ministers for a solution. "It's clear that the aim of the Taranto prosecutors' office is to block the application of the AIA and get the plant closed down. "They are trying to create the conditions in which the AIA is not applicable. This is not legal. "Obstacles are being created to the law being respected".

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