UPDATE 1-Italian court confirms production halt at steel plant
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ROME Aug 20 (Reuters) - An Italian court said steel plant ILVA would have to clean up pollution caused by noxious emissions before it could resume production, according to documents on Monday which explained a ruling placing parts of the site under special administration.
Managers at the ILVA plant in Taranto in southern Italy had argued that the original court ruling on Aug. 7 would allow it to continue operations while upgrades were carried out.
But the court, in a 124-page explanation of its earlier ruling, ordered the privately owned Riva group which controls ILVA to take immediate steps to rectify systems which allowed high emissions of dioxins and other noxious chemicals.
It said the serious health emergency created by the pollution required "the immediate adoption of preventive sequestration -- without the right of use" of core parts of the plant, including coking, blast furnaces and steelworks.
However the ruling opened the way to a resumption of production once the necessary steps had been taken to repair the environmental damage at Italy's biggest steel plant, which accounts for around a third of national output.
"The objective to be pursued is the single one of achieving as quickly as possible an environmental clean-up and the end to polluting activities," it said.
Production could be authorised only once all the necessary technical steps had been taken to clean up the site and end pollution, the document said.
ILVA chief executive Bruno Ferrante said the explanation clarified the original ruling and indicated "a reasonable and common sense course of action."
He said the ruling allowed ILVA not to close the plant permanently, and he pledged to step up investment in technological improvements and reducing pollution. ILVA employs some 12,000 workers in a region of high unemployment.
With Italy sinking deeper into recession, the government of Prime Minister Mario Monti is having to balance the need to maintain one of the small number of industrial sites in the poor and underdeveloped south with a longstanding health emergency.
According to a health ministry report, deaths from cancer in the region run at 15 percent above the national average, with lung cancer death rates as much as 30 percent higher.
The explanation of the court's ruling comes after Industry Minister Corrado Passera and Environment Minister Corrado Clini visited Taranto on Friday and said they were dropping plans to challenge the prosecutors' ruling in the constitutional court.
ILVA has pledged to invest 146 million euros to repair the environmental damage caused at the site. (Reporting By Vicenzo Damiani; Editing by David Cowell)
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