The state is considering all options for when Israel Chemicals’ license to mine the Dead Sea’s minerals expires in 2030 including nationalizing Dead Sea operations, Finance Ministry experts said Tuesday.
A Finance Ministry team led by Chief Economist Yoel Naveh is examining the possibilities. “All options are on the table extending the license, a tender, nationalization,” the team’s coordinator, Qusaii Assi, told the Knesset Finance Committee.
Assi noted that the team was originally supposed to submit its recommendations last year, but the process was extended because of a public hearing process. The recommendations will be submitted by June, he added.
The Knesset Finance Committee will oversee the government’s preparations for the end of Israel Chemicals’ license to operate at the Dead Sea, committee chief Moshe Gafni said at the hearing.
“As one of the country’s largest natural resources is up for debate, the Finance Committee won’t allow any foot-dragging and will demand a detailed work plan and a public discussion starting in the next few months,” he said.
The committee session was held at the request of MK Miki Rosenthal (Zionist Union). Rosenthal, referring to a panel that set policy for handling the country’s royalties from natural resources, criticized the government’s efforts on the Dead Sea matter.
“The Sheshinski committee ruled that the state must set up a committee to discuss alternatives when a license period is due to end, but this hasn’t happened. All that’s been appointed is a Finance Ministry team that has barely met,” he said, referring to Naveh’s team.
According to Rosenthal, the big questions need to be answered now whether to hold a tender, extend the license period or transfer the rights to the state. Another question is what to do with the Dead Sea, “a global asset that is drying up,” he said.
Rosenthal noted that the law currently gives Israel Chemicals the right of refusal, which would make a tender process meaningless. That clause must be done away with, he said.
Rosenthal criticized the government’s lack of organization on the matter, noting that the Energy Ministry had given Israel Chemicals a permit to operate a power plant at the Dead Sea until 2037. He called on the Finance Committee to supervise the government in this matter.
Gafni accepted Rosenthal’s proposal that the Finance Ministry give six-month updates on its work.
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