Oct 12 (Reuters) - Italy's Ilva steel plant must limit
annual production and shut down Europe's biggest blast furnace
for upgrades in order to get an environmental license to
operate, according to the Environment Ministry.
The factory in the southern city of Taranto must limit its
annual steel production to 8 million tonnes, compared with last
year's output of 8.5 million tonnes, according to a document
outlining the work that had to be done to keep the plant
The plant began a shutdown last week after a court ordered
it to close because of evidence that pollution was causing
above-average cancer rates in the surrounding area.
The court's plan sparked a series of protests by labor
unions, which said a pause in production would put the future of
the factory in doubt and risk jobs in a region already suffering
above-average unemployment, creating a headache for the
government of Prime Minister Mario Monti.
employs 12,000 workers directly while another 8,000 people are
indirectly employed by the sprawling site located in the heel of Italy's
boot. It accounts for more than a third of Italy's total steel output,
the second-biggest producer in Europe after Germany.
The ministry said it must also shut down and upgrade several
of its coke oven batteries and blast furnaces, including one
which is Europe's biggest, with the aim of reducing the mill's
toxic dust emissions.
The huge, continuously operating blast furnaces cannot be
switched off without a long-term shutdown of the site, stoking
some fears that it could be closed down permanently.
It is not yet clear whether the ministry's requirements will
trump the upgrades ordered by the court, which has taken over
management of a large part of the factory to oversee its