Coal mine occupation ends after Italy rules out shutdown
ROME (Reuters) - Miners ended a week-long occupation of Italy's only coal mine on Monday after the regional government promised not to close it at the end of the year.
About 100 miners had blockaded themselves in a chamber 370 meters (1,200 feet) underground with explosives to demand that the Carbosulcis mine on the island of Sardinia remain open.
"We have decided to abandon the occupation," miner Stefano Meletti said.
Meletti, who made headlines last week when he slashed his wrist on television during a news conference in the mine, said workers were ready to take further "strong action" if their demands were not satisfied.
After a meeting with local and regional government representatives on Friday, the Industry Ministry said in a statement the mine, which employs 500 people, would not close and authorities would review a project to update it "to make it compatible with the latest technology and make it economically sustainable".
The occupation became a symbol of Italy's struggling industrial sector and prompted President Giorgio Napolitano to express his sympathy for the miners as Prime Minister Mario Monti's technocrat government strives to boost the economy during its final months in power.
On Saturday, a nearby Alcoa aluminum plant began shutting down production, laying off hundreds in a region hard-hit by recession. The island's unemployment rate is 15 percent.
The Carbosulcis mine, which was estimated to have 600 million metric tonnes of coal reserves in 2006 but has struggled to stay financially viable, supplies coal for an electricity plant run by energy giant Enel.
The mine, controlled by the regional government, was occupied in 1984, 1993 and 1995 when protesting workers stayed in a tunnel for 100 days.
(Editing by Janet Lawrence)
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