One of the Sardinian coal miners, barricaded underground in protest over the possible closure of the mine, slit his wrist live on TV during a press conference.
Digital Journal reported on August 27, that 100 miners had barricaded themselves underground in the Carbosulcis di Nuraxi Figus mine, just west of the Sardinian capital city of Cagliari. This was ahead of a government meeting on the future of the mine.
Worried about the possible loss of their jobs, the miners seized 771 lbs (350 kg) of the companies' explosives before locking themselves underground in the mine on Monday.
Reuters reports that during a press conference underground at the mine, where journalists were shown the store of explosives, 49-year-old Stefano Meletti cried out, "If someone here has decided to the kill miners' families, ladies and gentlemen, we'll cut ourselves, we'll cut ourselves," as he slashed his wrist in front of reporters.
"We cannot take it anymore. We cannot! We cannot! It’s what we have to do," he added.
Meletti, a father of two was, rushed to the mine’s infirmary and from there to a hospital in the town of Carbonia. His condition remains stable.
Even his colleagues were taken by surprise by his actions, but did say that they are “desperate” to prevent the closure of the mine and that they were willing to take “extreme measures” to keep it open.
Giancarlo Sau, a representative for Italy's largest trade union CGIL, told reporters, “We’re ready for anything" and pointed at the storage area where the explosives and detonators are being kept.
Sau, one of the miners who grabbed Meletti, said, "Do not make us lose our reason to live. Do not make us lose our reason altogether. We are ready to do crazy things."
The protesters have been taking turns in the underground siege, and there are even six women workers among them.
Giuliana Porcu, 45, is a health and safety official, who told the media, “If we don’t put up a fight, it will be the end of the mine.”
Another female protester, Valentina Zurru, 45, has worked at the facility for 20 years, said: “The mine is my life. If they close it, I’d have nothing to do but work on a little patch of land that my family owns."
“But I don’t want to think of it. I’m convinced that we will be able to save our jobs.”
The workers have vowed to stay underground until the government promises to help them. Due to a shortage of funding for the coal industry, Italian energy corporation Enel is planning the shutdown of the last coal mine in the country.
Workers have suggested alternative uses for the mine to make it viable, including a carbon-capture project, which would store polluting emissions underground to reduce global warming and a plan to produce electricity at the mine.
Authorities have so far denied their pleas and claim that to continue the project would cost around 250 million euros a year. Government Undersecretary of Economic Development, Claudio De Vincenti told La Republica, "That's almost 200,000 euros per miner. It's an unsustainable cost."
However, the Italian government is set to meet on Friday in Rome to discuss the economic problems in Sardinia and to discuss the carbon capture project with Sardinian officials and union leaders.
The deep recession gripping Italy has struck Sardinia's mining industry hard, and the unemployment rate in this region is 16%.
The coal mine is not the only industry experiencing problems in Italy. There have been threats to close a huge aluminum plant run by Alcoa in Sardinia, which has caused protests.
Also Europe's largest steelworks, situated in Taranto, a southern region of Puglia in Italy, is being threatened with closure after years of controversy over pollution of the area. The plant employs, directly and indirectly some 20,000 people, in an area already devastated by high unemployment.