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ArcelorMittal Announces Shutdown of Italy’s ILVA Steel Plant, Largest in Europe

Nov. 15, 2019 (EIRNS)—ArcelorMittal, the London-based steel giant which had “rented” the ILVA steel plant in Taranto, Italy, has announced the shutdown of all three active blast furnaces of the plant. ArcelorMittal had won a tender to purchase the plant and is renting it as a prelude to the formal acquisition, but has withdrawn from the contract, inducing a break in the rules by the Italian government.

The shutdown of the largest steel plant in Europe can be characterized as the latest act of the 1992 “Britannia coup” in Italy, to deindustrialize the country, including through privatization (see EIR Investigation, “Italy: Behind the Scandals, an Even Bigger Scandal,” April 23, 1993). Another product of that coup is the failed protection of the sinking city of Venice (see report below).

The shutdown of the Taranto ILVA plant means job losses for 10,000 directly and 20,000 indirectly in a town of 200,000 residents—virtually hitting each and every family—and would force Italy to start importing steel for its industrial sectors, shipyards above all, but also automotive.

The rules the Italian government is accused of breaking concern legal immunity for management during the environmental clean-up established by the contract. The management, however, made it clear that, even with legal immunity, they won’t be able to comply with the new deadline for the clean-up established by the court.

This is the sad epilogue of a crisis started by the “Clean Hands” faction when, in 2012, Taranto prosecutors arrested the Riva family, owners of ILVA, and seized the plant on allegations of environmentalist crimes. Eventually, the plant was run by government commissioners and sold to ArcelorMittal in a 2018 tender.

As expert Prof. Franco Battaglia, among others, has argued, the prosecutor’s case is based on fake statistics.

In a release yesterday, ArcelorMittal has announced that the first blast furnace will be shut down on Dec. 12; on Dec. 30 the second one, and on Jan. 15 the third one.

ArcelorMittal is also closing other steel plants in Europe, for instance in Krakow, Poland.

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