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Coal power plant in Saline Joniche, Italy


In Saline Joniche, on the southern tip of Calabria, SEI s.p.a. presented a project to build a 1320 MW coal-fired power plant. SEI S.p.A. is a company held by the Swiss Repower Group (57.5%), the Hera Group (20%), the engineering company Foster Wheeler Italiana S.r.l. (15%), and the investment company Apri Sviluppo S.p.A. (7.5%). Coal will be procured on the international market and delivered by sea through the Saline Joniche port. The installation is designed to process locally produced biomass in addition to burning coal.

The project generated widespread opposition among environmental associations, citizens and local institutions both in Italy and in Switzerland.

A powerful mobilization occurred in Kanton Graubünden, the home region of Repower. In 2007, the Coordinamento delle Associazioni dell'Area Grecanica (coordination of associations of the Grecanica area) was created with the aim to inform and raise awareness on the risks and problems related to the coal power plant. The mobilization stressed on the negative environmental and health impacts of the coal project and called for a sustainable development for the region. Moreover, the plant will be located in the old industrial area known as Liquichimica Biosintesi, built in the 1970s and immediately abandoned. The industrial project was strongly supported by ‘Ndrangheta (local Mafia) that benefitted a lot with it. The risk of criminal infiltration is extremely high for the new installation as well.

The lack of jobs and economic resources in the area is a strong issue, which is why a few groups have sprung up in favour of the project, which is seen as an opportunity for economic growth.

In June 2012 the Monti government issued a decree declaring the environmental compatibility of the project, and in April 2013 the Italian Ministry of the Environment also formally concluded the environmental impact assessment. The approval process will be complete with the granting of an "autorizzazione unica", where the region of Calabria plays an important role.

In 2012 local associations and then Greenpeace, Legambiente, LIPU e WWF presented appeals to block the authorization for the new plant.

The Ministry of Cultural Heritage, the Region Calabria and local authorities also disapproved the project. In particular, the Region presented two appeals to the TAR Lazio to annul both decrees presented by the government and by the Ministry of the Environment. The Region opposes the project following the directions of the Regional Energy Plan (2005), which prohibits the construction of coal-fired plants in the territory and point to energy production from renewable and sustainable resources . Moreover, as attested by the Energy Plan data, Calabria produces nowadays 'more' electricity than it consumes.

Resistance also gathered form in Kanton Graubünden, Switzerland. That Kanton owns about half of Repower's shares. This semi-public ownership status allowed resisting activists to refer to the corporation's direct liability to the public. Around 2008, activists began to spread the news of Repower's coal-plant aspirations (which first involved another coal plant project in Brunsbüttel, Germany), to contact various stakeholders, form a civil association for 'a future without coal', and send editorial letters to local newspapers. In 2011, they organized a podium discussion and got the press and a TV channel to cover the story extensively. They also informed senior national scholars about the case, 24 of whom published an open letter expressing their opposition to coal-based energy. Public opinion polls were commissioned both in Calabria and in Graubünden, which showed a clear rejection of the power plant project by both populations. Thereupon, a coalition of activists, NGOs and political parties decided to launch a plebiscite demanding the local government to disavow of any coal-based energy projects in general and to forbid publicly (co-) owned companies to invest in those in particular. Supported by a sustained and inspired campaign, this demand won in a public vote on 22nd of September 2013, in spite of a strong, almost unanimous stance of the local economic and political elites in favour of the coal plant. Repower then pledged to retract its investments from Saline Joniche by 2015.

Following those events, in spring 2014, in Italy, local and national resistance groups started to lobby the public multi-utility Hera based in Emilia-Romagna, asking the withdrawal from the project.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Coal power plant in Saline Joniche, Italy
State or province:Province of Reggio Calabria, Calabria
Location of conflict:Saline Joniche, Montebello Jonico municipality
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Thermal power plants
Ports and airport projects
Specific commodities:Electricity

Project Details and Actors

Project details

The Ultra-Supercritical project consist in the construction of two 660 MW plants; a covered coal bunker with a storage capacity of 300.000t; accumulation areas for ash, gypsum and limestone; two 35 km power line (380 KV) will bring electricity produced to the National grid. In addition, the project includes structural interventions on the Sant’Elia port, amounting to 50 million euro. SEI spa requested a 50 years grant on the port areas for the realization and management of a marine terminal at the service of the coal power plant. The company will use for its activity approximately 25% of the port surface.

The new plant has been projected with the plan to include in next years the Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) system.

The construction works will last 50 months.

Project area:32
Level of Investment:1,317,800,000
Type of populationSemi-urban
Affected Population:6,300 [inhabitants of Montebello Jonico Municipality]
Start of the conflict:2007
Company names or state enterprises:SEI S.p.A
Repower Group from Switzerland - Major investor
Hera group from Italy
Foster Wheeler Italiana S.r.l from Italy
Apri Sviluppo S.p.A from Italy
Relevant government actors:Italian government, Ministry of the Environment, Ministry of Cultural Heritage, Region Calabria, Province of Reggio Calabria, municipality of Monte Bello Jonico, Government of the Kanton Graubünden (Switzerland)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:From Italy: Coordinamento delle Associazioni dell'Area Grecanica (, Greenpeace Italia (; Legambiente (; WWF Calabria (; LIPU (‎).
From Switzerland: Zukunft statt Kohle ( WWF Graubünden (

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
International ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Recreational users
Local scientists/professionals
Religious groups
Forms of mobilization:Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Public campaigns
Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Referendum other local consultations
Land occupation
Media based activism/alternative media
Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Objections to the EIA
Street protest/marches
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Development of a network/collective action
Official complaint letters and petitions
The mobilization has gone beyond Italian borders, at 1000 km away from Saline Joniche, to Kanton Graubünden in Switzerland. The two campaigns against the project exchanged information and shared strategies to coordinate efforts. The Calabrian committees travelled to Switzerland to raise awareness about local situation and vice versa to testify in Calabria supports and outcomes of the Swiss mobilization.
The Swiss campaign used several forms of mobilization including public letters to the energy company signed by senior Swiss scientists, conferences with representatives from South America whose populations are locally affected by coal mining projects, the involvement of politicians and NGOs, open letters to local newspapers, demonstrations and artistic public protests. The campaign then organized a plebiscite that demanded to deny publicly co-owned companies (such as Repower) any right to invest in coal-fired power plants.
The campaign against the Saline Joniche project is included in the largest campaigns at national and international level against coal power plants. In summer 2014 the Rainbow Warrior ship of Green Peace arrived in Saline Joniche during its 'Mediterranean Energy Tour', to campaign for a shift in energy investments away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy to help avert the worst impacts of climate change. [1 ]


Environmental ImpactsPotential: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Global warming, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Other Environmental impacts, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems
Other Environmental impactsThe plant would emit in the air 7,600,000 t/year of CO2; 2.621 t/year of NOx and 2,330 t/year of SOx and 291 t/year of dusts [2]
The plant would have local impact on the marine and terrestrial ecosystem of the Hellenic area and put at risk 18 archaeological restricted areas and 5 Sites of Community Importance [European Commission Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC)] [3]
In the coastal area around Saline Joniche there are unique Bergamot orange plantations. This rarely cultivated fruit is used for tea and perfumes. These traditional plantations would be threatened by the new installation. [4]
Saline Joniche is located in an area affected by seismic and geological activities. The Carbon Capture and Storage system, if implemented, could increase the risks of earthquakes. Italian legislation prohibits the use of CCS systems in highly seismic areas [6].
Health ImpactsPotential: Accidents, Deaths, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Other Health impactsIn 2012 Greenpeace promoted a study to estimate the impacts of Italian coal power plants emissions based on the methods used in a research issued by the European Environment Agency (EEA) concerning the air pollution caused by industrial facilities. Following Greenpeace data the plant emissions would provoke 44 deaths/year. [2]
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Other socio-economic impacts
Other socio-economic impactsA greek-influenced dialect is still being spoken in that region and architecturally, there are also greek-influenced cultural heritage sights, so that it became known as Area Grecanica. It also has landscapes of particular beauty. Various economic 'development' projects have been pursued there that have ended as ruins, because the money was siphoned away to the Mafia. More recently, the region has made important strides at protecting it's landscape, engaged in efforts at renaturation of rivers etc. and is working towards recognition as world cultural heritage sight.


Project StatusPlanned (decision to go ahead eg EIA undertaken, etc)
Conflict outcome / response:Court decision (undecided)
Strengthening of participation
Withdrawal of company/investment
In May 2014 SEI spa litigated against local activists for the diffusion of satirical cartoons and informative flyers against the project, saying those cartoons were damaging the image of the Company. The request for damages amount to € 4 million.
A few months after, during a campaign against fossil fuels, Greenpeace affixed in Saline Joniche the incriminated images to challenge SEI spa.
Development of alternatives:The province, the university and local associations, presented few alternatives for the restoration of the industrial and port area.
The desire for a sustainable development for the area has emerged through various proposals as the idea of creating a new tourist port or the proposal to create a protected marine park.
Unfortunately, none of them has yet been seriously considered.
In 2014, an environmental remediation project on the industrial area of Saline Joniche, won the Holcim Awards 2014 for Europe. The Holcim Awards for Sustainable Construction is an international competition that recognizes innovative projects and future-oriented concepts on regional and global levels. A total of USD 2 million in prize money is awarded in each three-year cycle. The Anthropic park - Freshwater ecological reserve and remediation that connects nature with the imprints of humanity won the top prize. [5]
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:The conflict in Italy is still ongoing and, therefore, the success so far unclear.
The Swiss part of the campaign was clearly successful, because popular resistance forced Repower corporation, the main investor, via a legally binding plebiscite to withdraw its investments from the coal plant.
In Italy there has been a gradual strengthening of the participation and the use of various forms of mobilization.
The authorization process for the plant is still in progress, but whether and who may be financing it remains unclear.

Sources & Materials

Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

Grubünden plebiscite text

Official Bulletin of the Calabria Region, Regional Energy Plan, 2005

Environmental Impact Assessment and Authorization process documents

Presidencial decree on environmental compatibility of the project, June 2012

[6] Legislative decree concerning geological storage of carbon dioxide

Graubünden plebiscite result

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

Various documents

[1] Green Peace campaign 2014

[2] Green Peace study on Environmental impacts 2012

[3] Article on environmental pollution.

[4] Document on Bergamot plantations

[5] Article on the Holcim Awards 2014 for Europe, Saline Joniche project

Articles on the Saline Joniche project,

Project document, March 2012

Document on health impacts

Article concerning protests against Hera group

Repower website

NoCarbone SAline Joniche webiste

Region Calabria website, TAR petition

SEI S.p.A. webpage

Swiss mobilization and websites,,

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Swiss mobilization photos

Television documentary on the project

Swiss mobilization video

Video on the power plant project, its impacts and alternative proposals

Meta information

Contributor:Marianna, CDCA (; Jair, independent researcher
Last update18/08/2019



Logo No Carbone Saline


Industrial site of Saline Joniche


Bergamot plantations


Greenpeace campaign supporting local activists denounced by SEI S.p.A.


Italian and Swiss event against the power plant project

Credits: Facebook page NO alla Centrale a Carbone di Saline Joniche (RC)

Swiss mobilization poster