ILVA or How Corruption Kills Italians and Italy’s Economy

The huge ILVA steelworks in Taranto is in the midst of a huge storm and risks closure.

If the ILVA steel plant shuts down, Italy’s GDP could fall by 0.5%. An estimated 80,000 jobs in the area may go if the plant closes.

The ILVA tempest came about after 30 years of cover-ups tried to hide the fact that the huge complex was slowly but sure killing off those who lived around it came to light.  Local residents had been screaming about the dangers of the plant for decades, but their voices were ignored.

Yesterday, seven arrests were made.  Some were senior ILVA employees, others were local officials suspected of colluding with ILVA personnel to hide the damage the plant was doing.  Even the owner of the plant is under investigation.

UPDATE 28 November, 2012:

  • Italy’s government is considering passing legislation to save the ILVA steel plant from closure.

End of Update.

Cancer levels in the area around the plant left investigators little option but to seize a section of the complex, but despite this, a clean-up project was very slow in appearing.  It sounded as if the owners of the ILVA plant were hoping public money would be used to bail them out.  This may not happen and despite the huge loss of jobs, should not.  As the investigators have pointed out, the right of the public to good health is greater that the right of a company to operate a business which is a proven threat to public health.

Today, 5,000 ILVA employees turned up for work only to discover they could not enter the complex.  Unless something can be worked out very fast all 12,000 of the facilities’ employees risk losing their jobs.  Not only this, but if the plant does shut down, the greed and dishonesty of the few may cause Italy’s GDP to fall by 0.5%.  And right in the middle of a global economic crisis.

Italy’s environment minister is attempting to find a solution to the ILVA crisis and to save many thousands of jobs.

One fear is that the closure of ILVA made cause a domino effect as other ILVA plants close down as well as companies which supply ILVA.  The number of jobs which may go could be enormous.

The ILVA steelworks situation is scandalous and illustrates just how lethal corruption can be and how corrupt Italy has become.

Will the ILVA affair finally cause Italy to learn its lesson?  Knowing this nation, probably not.  How many people will have to die and how many jobs will have to be lost before Italy realises that corruption literally kills.

Corruption also puts of foreign companies from investing in Italy.

Perhaps the only hope for ILVA now is a bid by Indian steel giant ArcelorMittal.

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  1. Julian says

    Hi Alex,
    When you say “years of cover-ups” could you be a bit more specific?
    For instance… when were the health problems initially reported?
    Which Italian institutions failed to asses the problem?
    Roughly how many people were affected by the ILVA plant in Taranto?

    I absolutely agree that “corruption kills people”, but many here don’t seem to realise exactly how.

    BTW, I don’t watch the news, or read Italian news papers as they always seem to be talking about something that started some time ago (when I wasn’t around), and lacking context information.
    I usually can’t figure out the context of most headings or news articles. Has this ever happened to you?

    • says

      Hi Julian,

      Good questions and here are answers.

      When you say “years of cover-ups” could you be a bit more specific? – Around 30 years – since around 1982 Make that over 40 years – environmental concerns first surfaced as long ago as 1971 see here – this article simply demonstrates that even in 1982 the issues had not been resolved – in Italian.

      Which Italian institutions failed to asses the problem? Just about all of them who were responsible for monitoring the area. ARPA for example, but not only. Local and region authorities kept strangely mum, as did unions within the plant. And Taranto university. I’ve been told by someone who monitored the site that ILVA was informed before checks were carried out so certain plant was turned off before inspections- this kept emissions below acceptable levels. It could also be argued that numerous Italian environment and other ministers have kept far too quiet about the situation for far too long.

      Roughly how many people were affected by the ILVA plant in Taranto? – In what sense? Anyway, 12,000 people work at ILVA Taranto, but more than 2,600 work for ILVA in other areas of Italy. Arguably the whole of the population of Taranto is affected by the pollution. Economically, ILVA suppliers and all the companies supplied by ILVA may well suffer of the facility closes. Around 80,000 jobs are thought to depend on ILVA’s Taranto operation:

      It’s one big mess, isn’t it? A time bomb waiting to explode and now the bomb has gone off.

      Hope that clarifies the situation for you a little.



      • Julian says

        Thank you! That clarifies a lot. 30 years! wow!

        The whole thing reminds me of “Erin Brockovich” and I found that :
        “Italy has class action legislation now. Consumer associations can file claims on behalf of groups of consumers to obtain judicial orders against corporations that cause injury or damage to consumers.” (

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