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Glencore takes a look at Alcoa's Sardinian plant
ROME (Reuters) - Commodity trading and mining group Glencore (GLEN.L) has expressed an interest in taking over Alcoa's (AA.N) 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 labour representatives.
However, Glencore said it would provide its assessment in a week's time, according to the statement, and another meeting is due to be held on September 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 XTA.L, 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.
On Friday he said the government was looking for any other possible investors, "while respecting the interest demonstrated by Glencore".
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, miners have barricaded themselves in the Carbosulcis coal mine to protest its potential closure with the loss of about 500 jobs.
The industry ministry announced on Friday the mine will not close at the end of the year as the miners had feared.
The mine, controlled by the regional government, is losing 30 million euros per year, Alessandra Zedda, a regional government official, said this week.
Industry Minister Corrado Passera and Sardinian regional government leaders said they would review the mine's industrial plan to make it financially sustainable, and that it would be upgraded with new technology.
(Reporting by Alberto Sisto, Cristiano Corvino, Lisa Jucca.; Writing by Steve Scherer and Naomi O'Leary; Editing by Greg Mahlich)
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