Taranto

Taranto judge permits operation of ILVA smelting areas

Upholds court seizure, subjects plant to tight monitoring

Taranto judge permits operation of ILVA smelting areas

Taranto, June 3 - A judge in the southern Italian city of Taranto has granted permission to the troubled ILVA steelworks to use its confiscated smelting areas, the company and police were informed on Monday. The ruling made by Patrizia Todisco also confirms the legitimacy of the court-ordered seizure made on July 26, and subjects the plant to close environmental monitoring and tight deadlines as it operates. The ruling marks a partial victory for the government in a row with the court over whether the plant - accused of damaging health and the environment with billowing toxic emissions - can continue to run as it undertakes major clean-up measures the government agreed would permit it to continue operating. The Taranto judge had challenged the constitutionality of the so-called ''Save Ilva'' decree, passed in December, which the Italian government amended specifically to overrule a court-ordered partial shutdown. The judge's constitutional challenges were found to be in part inadmissable and in part unfounded. A long-awaited decree to salvage the Taranto plant, save thousands of jobs and 40% of the country's steel production will be proposed by June 5, the government said Friday. Premier Enrico Letta's government may also appoint a special commissioner for the plant's cleanup and management. ILVA has been at the centre of a political and legal battle since July when local magistrates ordered the partial closure of its Taranto plant due to serious health concerns. Saving ILVA, a plant that produces almost all of the country's steel for the automotive, shipping and domestic appliance industries, as well as provides jobs for around 20,000 workers, has become a priority for Letta's government. The company is also plagued by probes into the Riva family, whose holding controls the plant, for suspected fraud against the State and fake money transfers. Last week government officials tried to reassure tens of thousands of workers at the troubled company that ILVA workers would be taken care of after police seized 9.3 billion euros worth of assets belonging to the steel group's owners and ILVA's board of directors resigned en masse, including the company's chairman and its CEO. The Riva group is the biggest iron and steel producer in Italy, the fourth-biggest in Europe and the 23rd-biggest in the world. The Taranto plant is the biggest in Europe.

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