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ILVA industry in Taranto, Italy


The company Ilva belongs to the Riva Group and one of its iron and steel plants is based in Taranto. The plant is mainly dedicated to the processing and production of steel. The plant in Taranto was built in 1960 and was entrusted to Italsider for management. In 1905, a joint venture of the Group Elba, Terni and the Roman family Bondi was signed and the company Ilva was formed.

In 1921 the Banca Commerciale Italiana (Italian Commercial Bank) managed to take over the property and - with the establishment of the Instituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale (Institute for Industrial Reconstruction) - Ilva and all previously acquired iron and steel industries became property of the state, with factories in Genoa-Cornigliano, Naples-Bagnoli and Taranto [1].

After World War II, following the growing demand for steel, it was necessary to open a new plant in the city of Taranto. The '80s, however, marked a deep crisis in the steel sector; the Riva family acquired the Taranto plant in 1995, named it Ilva again and led to its complete privatization. The plant is now the cause of one of the major Italian environmental conflicts with political and social consequences but, above all, very serious effects on the public health and for the environment. In fact, the plant is adjacent to the Tamburi district in Taranto and, specifically, the mineral parks and the blast furnaces are only at few hundred steps from the houses.

The Ilva case has thus been placed at the center of a long and controversial debate on the protection of labor and the right to health. The first conviction for violation of the anti-environmental pollution rules against the Group came in 2005 with a final judgment. In 2012, the Public Prosecutor's Office of Taranto ordered a freeze all of the Riva family’s Italian assets, including blocking current accounts and assets confiscated such as the family’s shares in Alitalia, the Italian airline, worth about €70m. In addition to seizure without right of use of some facilities of the plant, he ordered the arrests of some group managers and politicians.

The prosecution argued that the plant's level of pollution had caused the deaths of thousands of people [2] and have contaminated unscrupulously the environment, without compliance with the emissions limits. However, the first order of seizure was followed by the issuance of seven Government decrees that cancelled the orders issued by the Judiciary [3], accompanied by surveys which established that at the Ilva plant all limits for dust and pollutant were exceeded, thus ignoring any legislation to protect the environment and the citizens, with dramatic consequences for their health [4]. The epidemiological report, in fact, has confirmed that the increase of deaths and of cancer is due to the Ilva environmental disaster[5].

The seizure of the plant in July 2012 triggered the mobilization of civil society and increased collective awareness with respect to the health risks for the population of Taranto. However, an internal clash has been created and on one hand, there was the attempt to protect the health; on the other hand, the aim was to preserve the jobs of so many workers. Many people asked for the definitive closure of Ilva but, at the same time, many other citizens have sided in favor of the plant that makes up 75% of the economy of Taranto, in terms of jobs and GDP , thus blocking any other form of alternative development [6].

The mobilization, however, began even before the investigation nicknamed "Environment undersold". In fact, in 2000, a group of former workers, women, environmentalists and farmers, began to oppose the policies of Ilva involved in corruption scandals to defend its illegal activities and conceal the truth. The Comitato Donne per Taranto (Women for Taranto), without getting answers, asked for epidemiological studies and a cancer register. That is how complaints have been lodged, exposed and the first demonstrations were organized. The Comitato Altamarea managed to gather 20,000 citizens who have requested clean air and manifested against the inactivity of the mayor of Taranto in front of the data collected by ARPA Puglia. The boys and girls of "Ammazza che piazza" put a lot of effort into cleaning and regenerating the green spaces in the city. The inquiry started also thanks to individual activists: the founder and President of Peacelink asked for the analysis of a piece of cheese and he discovered the very high values of dioxin contained in it; an ecologist devoted to the examination of the sea bottom, presented petitions to the Public Prosecutor's Office, working in collaboration with the Fondo Antidiossina. Finally, a farmer forced to kill 2000 items of cattle, was able to show that all the pollution could only came from the Ilva plant [7].

Therefore, thanks to the mobilization of the civil society and the subsequent beginning of the inquiry, the Ilva case has acquired national interest. However, the leaders of the Group have demonstrated their ability to intimidate workers by threatening redundancies and dismissals due to the possible closure of the plant. Among the workers, some have even decided to denounce irregularities and the lack of security in the company, after a short time they have been fired. It is easy, hence, to imagine the problem people and workers, for the umpteenth time, had to face: protect their health and that of their children or keep the job? The same unions did not take a clear position, thus asked the company to avoid layoffs and to the Public Prosecutor's Office to maintain the productivity of the plant [8].

Following the national scandal in 2012, the Government decided to intervene, raising enough arguments- through seven decree-laws to protect the plant in Taranto, a source of revenue for the Italian economy. Nowadays, despite the loans received by banks, Ilva is in a serious situation of insolvency (about € 2.9 million) with overdue wages and non-payments to suppliers.

In December 2013, moreover, the European Commission intervened on the issue opening an infringement procedure to the Directive 75/2015 / EU about industrial emissions, considering also the suspension of activities and the recourse to the European Court of Justice.

The case exemplifies the false dilemma in Environmental Justice between the need to protect environment and to save jobs. According to environmental historian Stefania Barca, "Nowadays it sounds so familiar, almost natural: the mutually exclusive demands and apparently opposing agendas of labor and the environmentalist movement. But in fact, this artificial division is nothing more than a crucial neoliberal strategy to divide two of the most powerful social movements of the industrial era, whose alliance could be a dangerous liaison with the capacity to call into question the very essence of the capitalist “treadmill of production.” It is thus essential that labor and environmental/public health organizations gain a historical perspective on their current state of conflict and become aware of the revolutionary potential of a common political project. [ ]. Another type of economy is undeniably, urgently needed. All the rage, the frustration, the pain and the conflict that working-class communities of industrial areas have embodied and carried in their lives must now lead towards a new horizon of struggle, a new and better dream than those fabricated by the market and the neoliberal state, and by the unions and political parties associated with them. A dream that can finally liberate local people from the unbearable contradictions of the “treadmill of production”; of the Alien within. The slogan Taranto libera! (“liberate Taranto!”) which was screamed again and again during the concert, spoke to just that." [9]

Basic Data

Name of conflict:ILVA industry in Taranto, Italy
State or province:Puglia region
Location of conflict:Taranto
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Industrial and Utilities conflicts
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Metal refineries
Specific commodities:Coal

Project Details and Actors

Project details

Ilva, which produces about 30 per cent of Italy’s steel output and employs 12,000 directly. Ilva is one the largest steelworks in Europe and is composed of 24 factories in Italy and abroad, the largest of these is located in Taranto. The production concerns carbon flat steel, welded pipes and plates; the main products are hot-rolled coil, cold, covered, rolling coils black, coated, by train as well as SAW welded pipes, ERW and shaped. The plant of Taranto uses an integral cycle plant consisting of coke ovens, blast furnaces, LD steelworks; the materials used are mainly iron, fluxes and coal. The data of 2013 showed the amount of steel production up to 5.7 million tons with 16,200 of direct employees and an estimated direct and indirect spin-off between 8,000 and 10,000 people [9] while, about the environmental protection , the latest data available go back up to 2012, the last year when the Ilva balance sheets were disclosed. So, probably, the Riva management achieved 6.1 billion euro, with a sum of 1.1 billion euro invested for the environmental protection.

It is precisely from July 2012, following the arrests triggered for some directors at the top of the group, that the establishment has been at the center of a complicated legal case, with national and political implications. In 2012, in fact, the Monti Government intervened to save the plant, avoiding its closure. This was done through issuing a decree-law through which, for establishments of national strategic interest, according the AIA (Integrated Environmental Authorisation), the Ministry of Environment may allow the continuation of production for a given period, not exceeding 36 months and provided that they fulfilled the requirements contained in the decision to review the same authorization [10]. This first decree is followed by the intervention of the Renzi Government, who, through the Decreto Salva Ilva bis has created the position of a environmental sub-commissioner to support the present special commissioner, and the company may ask for loans secured by lending banks to establish the appropriate environmental protection measures for the ongoing activities of the plant. The decree was signed into law and entered into force in January 2015, establishing the obligation, by July 2015, to implement 80% of prescriptions, and by 2016 the implementation of the remaining provisions that probably will be the most important ones; thereby negating the possibility of real recovery work [11]. Today, the special commissioner may have some of the money seized at the Riva family in 2013, which would be spared thanks to the non-compliance with environmental standards from 1995 to 2013, but the final decree blocked the transfer from the Swiss accounts. Finally, to demonstrate the serious insolvency of the group, by some considered unsolvable, there is the strike started by truck drivers at the end of January 2015, which, claiming a debt of 15 million euros threatened blocking of vehicles transporting raw materials, essential for the activity of the plant [12]

Project area:1545
Type of populationUrban
Affected Population:192.474 (Taranto inhabitants)
Start of the conflict:2012
Company names or state enterprises:Gruppo Riva from Italy
Relevant government actors:Governo Italiano, Parlamento, Ministero dell’Economia e delle Finanze, Ministero dello Sviluppo Economico, Ministero della Sanità
Ministero dell’Ambiente e della Tutela del Territorio e del Mare, Fintecna, Cassa Depositi e Prestiti, Commissione Europea
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:There are several organizations formed within civil society: Comitato Altamarea ( and Fondo Antidiossina ( together with the contributions from Peacelink ( started in 2000. In 2010 the movement Taranto Lider ( was born, while, in 2012, there were established the Comitato Cittadini e Lavoratori Liberi e Pensanti (, the movement of Ammazza che Piazza ( ), TARANTO LIBERA (, LEGAMJONICI ( and the Comitato Donne per Taranto. Also the work of the Federation of the Greens is of crucial importance (

Conflict and Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:Industrial workers
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Trade unions
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Referendum other local consultations
Street protest/marches

Impacts of the project

Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Other Environmental impactsIn the technical report by ARPA (Regional Agency for the environmental protection) in 2008, the data indicated a quantity of Ilva discharges equal to 145000 m3 / h for a daily capacity of 3.48 million m3, indicating that the 93% of the aliphatic hydrocarbons discharged into the Gulf of Taranto are attributable to the same establishment [ 13]. The chemical survey in 2012 also stated that two years before Ilva issued from its chimneys over 4000 tons of dust, 11 thousand tons of nitrogen dioxide and 11 thousand and 300 tons of sulfur dioxide and 7 tons of hydrochloric acid, 1.3 tons of benzene, 338.5 pounds IPA, 52.5 grams of benzo (a) pyrene, 14.9 grams of organic compounds dibenzo-p-dioxins and polychlorinated [14]. The order for seizure in 05/22/2013, however, used a report of ARPA Puglia of 12/03/2013, which demonstrated the excessive amounts of dioxins, furans and polychlorinated biphenyls, in addition to Tetrafurani, indicating the presence of slag within the plant [15]. Finally, in 2013, six stations were installed for the detection of pollutants, especially H2S, PM10, PM10 with SWAM 5a. By the way, unfortunately, due to the limits prescribed by Decree. 155/10 these values are not applicable in the area of the plant as private. Obviously, these values exceed the limits commonly applied in the rest of the territory.
Health ImpactsVisible: Occupational disease and accidents, Deaths, Other environmental related diseases, Accidents
Other Health impactsThe data on the health impacts observed come from the epidemiological survey of 2012, which showed that "the deaths caused by Ilva in the period 2004 to 2010 were 174, 83 of these are attributable to the violation of the limits of environmental dust (PM10). For the neighbourhoods surrounding the city, since the situation is relatively more serious, the victims are 91 (...) "with a reference to the workers who served in the Ilva plant in the period between the years 70-90m
, there were detected excesses of mortality for cancer diseases. [16]. Still, the last Sentieri study 2014 has identified and ensures a clear increase in the incidence of cancer and infant mortality (respectively 54% and 21% compared to the average of Puglia), attributable to emissions and discharges of Ilva. The study also points out an obvious load of dioxins and PCBs in farm workers near the plant [17]. The studies of the Fondo Antidiossina have detected a high presence of dioxin in breast milk of the women of Taranto. In addition, over the years, several workplace accidents were registered in the plant, beyond 1696 occupational diseases reported to INAIL (National Institute for the Insurance against work related injury) between 1998 and 2010. The total indifference and disregard for the health protection of workers, detected and confirmed thanks to the testimonies of workers, caused the conviction in 2014 for manslaughter against 27 Ilva manager [18]
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Specific impacts on women, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Displacement
Other socio-economic impactsThe women of Taranto had a very important role. The mothers, in particular, have figured out even before the expert opinions of the close link between the high number of cancer in children and the pollution produced by the establishment. Physicians, paediatricians and the Italian Association against Leukemia supported their demand and fears; they ask for clean air, the right to health of their children and a register of endometriosis, a condition that affects a large number of women in Taranto [18]. At the same time, many of these women who fight on the front line have been forced to give up their right to health, refusing to sign the petitions in the Public Prosecutor’s Office, because their husbands are employed at Ilva.


Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Court decision (undecided)
New legislation
Strengthening of participation
Application of existing regulations
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Development of alternatives:The local committees have proposed several proposals. Firstly, they have requested to order the money blocked to the Riva family with the aim to establish a New Company in which to insert the current employees of the plant and rehabilitation of the territory.
Otherwise, it has been suggested to proceed with the application for tax exemption concurrently to European funds, aimed at the creation of new start-ups. In addition, it was proposed the involvement of all the townspeople to enhance the Old City of Taranto, selling all properties unused at the symbolic cost of one euro. Still for the local revaluation, the Comitato dei Cittadini e Operai Liberi e Pensanti, proposed to return to the city of the state-owned properties no longer used by the Navy and turn them into cultural tourism poles. As for the port of Taranto, now needed for the industrial development, it has been thought to be able to exploit it for a greater impact on jobs and business with more profitable activities. About the delicate and baffling health conditions that characterize the area, it has been proposed the exemption of ticket for the inhabitants of the entire ionic area. Finally, it was suggested the evacuation of the Tamburi district, through a fund to demolish the buildings and build new ones. Only a small part of the residents, especially women - due to the lack of trust in institutions and attachment to their home and life- appreciated this alternative [20]. Another interesting proposal comes from the Greens, who presented the "Decreto Salva Taranto " (Save Taranto Decree) which, in addition to the land recovery, confiscation of property, offers early retirement of workers for physically demanding jobs. Moreover, it proposes the conversion of the port in tax free zone for fair trade, economic support for agriculture, mussel farming and infrastructure improvements to enhance the rail, road and construction of new works of interest such as City of Sport and Science. According to this alternative decree, European funds, state interventions and funds seized from the Riva family (including shares in Alitalia),and all the resources from the environmental damage that will be established by the Environment undersold trial [21], will permit the realisation of the projects contained in it.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Unfortunately, the Ilva case cannot be considered a victory for the movement for environmental justice yet. The decrees issued by the government, in fact, have suspended the laws on health and the environment that would protect the citizens, preferring the protection of economic interests. Citizens and workers have faced the threat of unemployment, families are struggling against cancers that affect their loved ones and movements are claiming for compensation and environmental improvements that have never been made. Numerous cattle have died due to the excessive rate of pollution and those impacted face daily the attempts to discredit them made by politicians.

Sources and Materials

Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

Decreto Legge 2012

Decreto Legge 2015

Direttiva 2010/75/UE

Ministero dell’Ambiente – Autorizzazione Integrata Ambientale sezione Ilva di Taranto

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Il fatto quotidiano

La repubblica

Il sole 24 ore

Il messaggero

Huffington Post

Gabriele Caforio, L’Ilva di Taranto tra interessi industriali e politiche ambientali, Tesi di laurea Università degli Studi di Perugia, A.A. 2011-2012

Leonardo Soleo, Piero Lovreglio, Laura Panuzzo, Maria Nicolà D’Errico, Antonella Basso, Maria Enrica Gilberti, Ignazio Drago, Cesare Tomasi, Pietro Apostoli, Valutazione del rischio per la salute da esposizione a elementi metallici nei lavoratori del siderurgico e nella popolazione generale di Taranto (Italia) in G Ital Med Lav Ergon 2012; 34(4): 381-91.

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

ILVA: per saperne di più

Ilva, trecento giorni di disputa giudiziaria

Ilva: nuovo ultimatum autotrasportatori

Infortuni e malattie professionali a Taranto, un’analisi dei dati INAIL]

Endometriosi a Taranto, “L’inquinamento è la causa?” Esposto in Procura

Taranto, i numeri dell’Ilva

[9] Environmentalists and workers of the world, unite!

By Stefania Barca On June 3, 2014

Licenziato l’operaio che aveva denunciato le irregolarità della fabbrica

Other documents

trade union demonstration against ILVA

worker strike against ILVA

ILVA plant

ILVA Iron plant in Taranto

we do not have a stainless health!

Meta information

Contributor:Erika Agosti (CDCA)
Last update16/03/2015



trade union demonstration against ILVA


ILVA plant


we do not have a stainless health!


worker strike against ILVA


ILVA Iron plant in Taranto