Environmental Protection Minister Avi Gabbay, Health Minister Ya’akov Litzman, and senior professionals met on Jan. 18th, to review activities and surveys conducted related to a planned phosphate mine in the southern town of Sde Brir. In late December, the National Planning and Building Council agreed to let Rotem Amfert, a subsidiary of Israel Chemicals, begin a pilot project to examine the environmental impact of a mine in Sde Brir. Nearby residents have opposed the mine for years, due to concerns about radiation and air pollution.

​Officials at today’s meeting agreed that before Rotem Amfert goes ahead with a detailed plan for the pilot project, a new environmental impact assessment (EIA) should be prepared; this one, they agreed, should be based only on new data, and not research that has been conducted in the past.

A joint team including professionals from the Ministries of Environmental Protection and Health will write guidelines for the new EIA. And the assessment itself will be prepared by the government, not by the developer, as is the accepted norm.

At the same time, a plan for reducing air pollution in the area will be prepared. One of the conditions for allowing the project to go through will be that steps will be taken to reduce air pollution in nearby Arad, Kseifeh, and other towns within close proximity – to ensure that even more pollution won’t be created.

Environmental Protection Minister Avi Gabbay: "This is an important topic that is gripped by professional disputes, and therefore, we will continue to work together… so that we can make the right decision."

Health Minister Ya’akov Litzman: "I congratulate Avi Gabbay, environmental protection minister, on his professional and balanced decision regarding the issue of the danger of mining in Sde Brir. This is a correct consideration, made with a clear and unbiased vision, being made for the health and environmental safety of Israeli citizens."