The Italian government says it is working hard on a deal to keep Europe’s largest steel plant open.
Owners ILVA have been given five days to comply with an order to begin shutting down operations at the site in the southern Italian city of Taranto.
Toxic emissions from the plant have been blamed for abnormal levels of tumours and respiratory disease in the region.
“We are working on an environmentally integrated authorisation,” said Italy’s Environment Minister Corrado Clini. “As soon as we have the details, they will be made public.”
The case is a major headache for the government, which must balance demands for a clean-up against the need to protect jobs in a region already suffering above average unemployment.
The unions are calling for flexibility. “We can’t act on an ultimatum,” said Susanna Camusso from the CGIL union, “but certified regulations will set out an investment plan and timings for it to be implemented.”
12 000 people are employed directly at the site and another 8000 indirectly. Initial news of the closure in August brought thousands out onto the streets of Taranto for an angry protest.