ILVA told cut pollution from toxic steelworks or lose licence

Fri Sep 28, 2012 9:12am EDT

* Env Min experts say ILVA must follow court orders

* ILVA president says other experts see no emergency

ROME, Sept 28 (Reuters) - Steelmaker ILVA must follow a court order to drastically reduce pollution from its factory in southern Italy, Europe's biggest steelworks, or risk losing its environmental authorisation, the Environment Ministry warned on Friday.

Prosecutors have ordered ILVA to stop production and clean up the factory in Taranto, the largest in Europe, after an inquiry found that toxic chemicals pumped from the plant were harming workers and local residents.

Court sources told Reuters on Wednesday that Patrizia Todisco, the judge in charge of pre-trial proceedings, ruled against the Italian group's plan to invest 400 million euros ($514.5 million) to modernise the plant while allowing production to continue.

Court documents say emissions of choking dust and dioxin and other cancer-causing chemicals from the plant are believed to have caused hundreds of deaths from respiratory diseases in Taranto and the surrounding region.

ILVA's president Bruno Ferrante said earlier on Friday he had asked independent experts to assess the plant's impact on the environment and health in the area, adding that they had told him the situation was not so serious.

"The scientific experts I am meeting are telling me a different story, that there is no health emergency at Taranto," he said. "When it's the right moment we will hand over the findings to judicial authorities."

Some 12,000 people are employed by the mill, and an additional 8,000 jobs are related to it.

The order to halt production and clean up the plant has brought complaints from politicians, trade unionists and industrialists. ILVA produced 8.5 million tonnes of steel in 2011, nearly 30 percent of Italy's total output, and is one of the few big industrial plants in Italy's impoverished south. ($1=0.7775 euros) (Reporting By Catherine Hornby; Editing by Mike Nesbit)

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