UPDATE 1-Glencore meets Italian officials over Alcoa plant
ROME Aug 31 (Reuters) - Commodity trading and mining group Glencore has expressed an interest in taking over Alcoa's aluminium plant on the island of Sardinia, Italy's industry ministry said on Friday.
"The Swiss multinational (Glencore) confirmed its interest in discussing the Alcoa question, asking for clarifications about the general conditions, like the energy costs, infrastructure and environmental issues," the ministry said in a statement issued after officials met with the company and local labout representatives.
However, Glencore said it would provide its assessment in a week's time, according to the statement and another meeting would be held on Sept. 5.
"It would be premature to say a deal is about to happen," said a source familiar with the talks.
Glencore, which next week faces a crucial shareholder vote on its bid to take over mining group Xstrata, declined to comment.
Italian industry ministry Undersecretary Claudio De Vincenti has previously played down prospects of a deal to save the plant, whose future has been put in doubt by high energy costs.
Alcoa plans to close the loss-making factory by November unless a buyer is found. About 50 of the plant's workers staged protests on Thursday and Friday urging the government to intervene and save their jobs.
Before Friday's meeting, Alcoa workers shouted, blew horns and beat hard hats against the ministry gate.
"We risk losing more than 1,000 jobs and it is something we just can't let happen in our region," said Alcoa worker Stefano Lier during the protest.
Closure of the plant, a major employer on Sardinia, would be a heavy blow for the island, risking hundreds of jobs in a region already beset by high unemployment and a sluggish economy.
Seventy kilometres south of the Alcoa factory in Sardinia, miners have barricaded themselves in the Carbosulcis coal mine, which is also threatened with closure with the potential loss of about 500 jobs. They also are meeting with ministry officials on Friday.