Monti enters row over fate of Italy's giant steel plant

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Monti enters row over fate of Italy's giant steel plant

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Italy’s prime minister has waded into a legal battle over the fate of Europe’s biggest steel plant. Production at the ILVA mill in Taranto is threatened by dangerously high pollution levels.

Mario Monti is sending three ministers to the southern site to see if he can overrule a local judge’s closure order last month to prevent a “environmental catastrophe.”

But an appeals court ruled last week that ILVA could remain open as it upgraded its production line to meet regulatory standards, a decision the company interpreted as a green light
for continued steel production.

In a region where unemployment exceeds 30 per cent, that has sparked a row between those who want the plant shutdown and those who depend on it for jobs.

The July order to shut down parts of the factory triggered protests from ILVA workers, who live in an area that already faces chronic unemployment and social unrest because of the recession.

In a statement on Saturday, Environment Minister Corrado Clini said a decision to stop production may hamper, rather than accelerate, the need to improve and clean-up the factory.

“We must not forget that the legal battles and social conflict triggered by the prospect of plant closure could interrupt or seriously delay the clean-up plans for the factory,” he added.