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 .
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  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 , 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 . The epidemiological report, in fact, has confirmed that the increase of deaths and of cancer is due to the Ilva environmental disaster.
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 .
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 .
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 .
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."