MILAN (AP) — The Italian government on Tuesday appointed a turnaround expert as administrator to oversee Europe's largest steel mill as part of an emergency decree to safeguard jobs while pushing ahead with an environmental cleanup at the plant linked to elevated cancer rates in the area.

Enrico Bondi, who turned around the Parmalat dairy company after its 2003 bankruptcy, was appointed as administrator for one year, renewable up to 36 months.

The Ilva steel mill employs 12,000 people and is the mainstay of the economy around the city of Taranto in the southern Apulia region.

However, its future has been endangered by an environmental and health scandal linking it to high rates of cancer and subsequent investigations into the owners for alleged misappropriation of company funds.

Italy's industry minister, Flavio Zanonato, said the emergency decree was passed to safeguard the plant from closure after it became clear that the current management was not meeting cleanup commitments set by environmental officials.

"The closure of Ilva would be a huge blow to the Italian economy and would have devastating effects on employment," Zanonato said. He said closure would drain 8 billion euros ($10 billion) from the economy.

Under the decree, the plant remains the property of the Riva Group.