Italian gov’t to take “direct” role in plan to revive struggling Ilva steel plant

The latest talks over the fate of the former Ilva steel smelter in southern Italy closed Monday with government officials saying the state would play a direct role in assuring the facility would emerge stronger from its ongoing environmental, labor, and production struggles.

ArcelorMittal, the Luxembourg-India conglomerate that acquired control of the Ilva facility in 2017, is now expected to provide its industrial plan for the plant’s turnaround sometime in early June.

The latest developments could prove to be positive news for the Italian economy, which is expected to shrink by around 10 percent this year as it struggles with the impacts of the global coronavirus outbreak. For all its problems, Ilva is among the largest single employers in southern Italy.

In February and March, as the coronavirus was spreading in Italy, ArcelorMittal said it would abandon Ilva, which when running at full capacity is Europe’s largest steel smelter. But the government stepped in to try to convince ArcelorMittal to stay the course.

It appeared that it was achieved on Monday after online talks between government officials, ArcelorMittal, and trade unions, local media reported. But the Italian state will have to play a role to help underwrite the costs of Ilva’s restructuring.

“The government is willing to intervene directly in order to have a strong Ilva again,” said Minister of Economy and Finance Roberto Gualtieri in a statement, adding “We want an Ilva that produces again, which is a world leader, which provides jobs for 10,700 workers, and which makes significant investments.”

Lucia Morselli, the head of ArcelorMittal’s Italian subsidiary, struck a similar tone.

“We want to move forward and we will be ready to present a plan in around ten days,” she said. “We also want to maintain the integrity of the plant and its importance at the European level.”