Prosecutor orders shutdown of AM Italia’s BF No. 2

An Italian public prosecutor has ordered a production halt at ArcelorMittal Italia’s blast furnace No. 2. ArcelorMittal Italia said Wednesday that it is studying the court’s notification, assessing technical aspects and hopes to keep the furnace open.

AM Italia told S&P Platts in an emailed statement that it received notification Tuesday of an order from the Taranto Public Prosecutor Prosecutor to start the process of shutting down BF No. 2 at its Taranto plant.

“Our intention is to collaborate as always with the relevant authorities and work towards an acceptable solution that will ensure the blast furnace can remain operational avoiding the risk of disruption,” the company told Platts.

Despite its 2 million mt/year design capacity, BF No. 2 is currently working with a crude steel production target of 1.5 million mt/year.

ArcelorMittal said the issue dates back to July 2015 when, following a fatal accident, the Taranto public prosecutor ordered the seizure of the furnace. It has operated since that time under a special accord between the Italian government, AM Italia’s troubled predecessor Ilva and Ilva’s administrators, on the condition that improvements would be undertaken.

After it took over the mill last year, ArcelorMittal attempted to gain full legal control of the BF but during a recent preliminary hearing on this case appointed technicians said the company had not fulfilled safety requirements and judges requested the furnace’s total closure.

It is understood that on Tuesday ArcelorMittal representatives met the Italian government to discuss the problem as well as the 1,400 temporary layoffs planned at the site and the so-called Crescita law decree, under which the government wishes to cancel the steelmaker’s criminal immunity regarding pollution remedies adopted at the site.

ArcelorMittal has already said that this new decree “will make it impossible for the company to continue to operate,” with some company representatives hinting at the idea that the company could now pull out from new investments if tensions continue with the Italian government.

— Annalisa Villa