State Allows Dead Sea Industries to Delay Salt Mining

Panel ruling draws fire from environmental watchdog groups, who see it as another capitulation to the company.

Israel Chemicals' Dead Sea Industries does not need to immediately mine the salt collecting in its evaporation pools, the National Infrastructure Committee ruled last week, drawing criticism from environmental watchdogs for what they called another capitulation to the company.

As part of a previous compromise, the state determined the company would be responsible for - and pay the bulk of the cost of - clearing out the salt pools, which are threatening to overflow and flood hotels along the Dead Sea.

"The government's decision to fully mine the salt means there is no need to act immediately in order to save the hotels," ICL stated in response, adding that it backed the government's decisions on the matter. "As part of the agreement with the state, Dead Sea Industries took upon itself to clear out the salt pools, a national project."

However, Adam Teva V'din - Israel Union for Environmental Defense petitioned the High Court of Justice over the state's agreement with the corporation, and since it's not known how the court will rule, ICL shouldn't stop its immediate work to clear the pools.

The NGO publicized the government committee's ruling on Sunday.

"The state's flaccid handling of ICL continues, and the factories continue enjoying broad benefits at the expense of the environment and the public interest," said executive director Amit Bracha.

The Interior Ministry's spokeswoman stated in response that the committee had decided last week to draft a master plan to clear out the salt pools.