Aug 17 - An Italian town is split between environmentalists wanting the steel plant closed and steelworkers wanting to keep their jobs as Industry and Environment Ministers hold talks with local authorities and company officials. Conway G. Gittens reports.
Thousands of steelworkers continue their protest in the Italian town of Taranto, while the Industry Minister and Environment Minister meet with local authorities and company officials. In July a judge ordered Europe's largest steelworks to halt part of its operations for endangering workers and nearby residents with fumes and dust particles. But the case has since bounced between courts as prosecutors, local people, and the Green political party have fought to close the plant completely. But the government and unions want to keep it open while it undergoes a 336-million euro cleanup. Corrado Passera is Italy's industry minister. SOUNDBITE: INDUSTRY MINISTER CORRADO PASSERA (ITALIAN WITH ENGLISH TRANSLATION) SAYING: "We want to see if it is possible to remediate the environmental situation, or if we are already remediating the environmental and health problems quickly enough to avoid the economic and social costs for this town, region and the whole country that would happen if the work of the company was interrupted." The case poses a dilemma for Prime Minister Mario Monti's government as ILVA is one of the few big industrial plants in the impoverished southern region, employing around 12,000 people. Prosecutors say noxious fumes from the plant have caused around 400 deaths over the past 13 years. Mauro Zaratta's 3 year old son has a tumour and says the plant must be closed. SOUNDBITE: MAURO ZARATTA, FATHER OF LORENZO, 3 YEAR OLD CHILD WITH TUMOUR (ITALIAN WITH ENGLISH TRANSLATION) SAYING: "ILVA is a factory that produces steel and it pollutes. As everyone says, it pollutes a lot. Now I have come here to ask for justice." The government expects to pass a decree by Sept. 30 outlining steps the plant must take to reduce pollution. Conway Gittens, Reuters