(Adds sources saying magistrates will appeal decree)
By Massimiliano Di Giorgio
ROME Nov 30 The Italian government rushed
through legislation on Friday to keep the troubled ILVA steel
plant going during a two-year clean-up after an environmental
scandal threatened the survival of a business employing
The future of Europe's biggest steel plant, in the southern
Italian city of Taranto, had hung in the balance after
magistrates ordered it to close over accusations that emissions
from the site had caused an environmental "disaster".
A decree passed in cabinet on Friday removed court
administrators who had been running parts of the plant, which
provides 20,000 jobs in an area of high unemployment, and said
an independent supervisor would be appointed to oversee a plan
to install cleaner technology.
"The company will now be able to operate so that it can
implement the environmental clean-up and modernisation,"
Industry Minister Corrado Passera said at a press conference.
The battle over the future of ILVA had been one of the
biggest challenges facing the government of Prime Minister Mario
Monti and a symbol of the struggle to preserve heavy
manufacturing in Italy.
Passera said closure of the plant would cost the wider
economy up to 8 billion-9 billion euros with knock-on effects
throughout the whole of Italian industry.
Under the decree, the privately held Riva group, which owns
the plant, could be fined as much as 10 percent of annual sales
if it failed to impose reforms and could even see the plant
confiscated, Environment Minister Corrado Clini said.
In July, magistrates appointed special administrators to run
the section of the plant containing the blast furnaces after an
investigation into reports of environmental problems on a
A source in the magistrates office in Taranto said they
would appeal the government's decree, saying it was
Evidence cited in court documents toxic emissions from the
site, one of the few remaining big employers in heavy industry
in Italy's underdeveloped south, and linked the emissions to an
increase in deaths from cancer and respiratory diseases in the
The company has said the plant complies with environmental
standards and denies its operations are responsible for any
health problems, but a stand-off ensued after magistrates seized
the mill's output on Monday.
In response, the company shut down the plant and warned that
thousands of jobs were at risk.
($1 = 0.7689 euros)
(Additional reporting by Steve Scherer; Writing by Naomi
O'Leary; Editing by Mark Potter and Leslie Adler)