A decision of the Justice Ministry had exempted the company Dead Sea Works from having to pay tens of millions of shekels in water bills.
This has prompted a prominent environmental group to ask the Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara to change the decision.
The water bill
According to Adam Teva V’Din, if Baharav-Miara does not force the mineral extraction company to pay for the water they use, he will file an appeal with the High Court of Justice.
The Dead Sea Works is the mineral extraction behemoth of billionaire Idan Ofer, which had been issued a water bill worth NIS 83 million.
However, the state wiped about NIS 65 million of the bill in October, as the Justice Ministry claimed that it would not be able to prove in court that the company had to pay the full bill under the Water Law.
It remains unclear whether the southern Israel-based company had paid the difference. According to Dead Sea Works, it pays royalties to the state that covers the bill.
It also argued that the franchise agreement it had made takes precedence over the terms of the Water Law.
The decision that had been made in October had been related to water that the company pumps from wells in the areas that are part of its franchise agreement.
It is used for industrial processes. In addition, Dead Sea Works also does not pay for the saltwater pumped from the Dead Sea in the north.
The current regulation state that this is because the salinity of the water exceeds the levels for which they can charge water.
However, Adam Teva V’Din has argued that the said agreement that allows the company to use the sale lake to mine magnesium, bromine and potash.
But, he said that it did not mean that the Water Law was not applicable, or that the company would not have to pay its water bills.
Moreover, he said that the Dead Sea was also shrinking because of the work of Dead Sea Works, due to which it needs to be charged for water in order to push it to use less.
The group’s efforts
The group is currently working on getting regulations changed in order to ensure that the mineral extraction company would have to pay for the salty water it uses from the Dead Sea.
A rare victory had been awarded to Adam Tera V’Din in late 2019 in the Haifa District Court against the company.
According to the ruling of Judge Ron Sokol, the Water Law does cover the Dead Sea, which means there has to be a water license.
He stated that the purpose of the Concession Law was to protect Dead Sea Works from competition and not for absolving it off its water bills, or exempt it from the Water Law.
In accordance with the court’s ruling, the Water Authority had begun to issue licenses, but after consulting with the Justice Ministry, they had withdrawn the NIS 83 million water bill issued to Dead Sea Works.