"We are not drying up the Dead Sea"

Israel Chemicals EVP Asher Grinbaum talks about nurturing vultures and the company's efforts to reduce environmental damage.

Israel Chemicals Ltd. (TASE: ICL) is investing NIS 2 billion over five years in a range of environmental ventures, the company's EVP and COO Asher Grinbaum told "Globes."

He said, "There is no escaping these measures which are a strategic plan formulated by the company after protracted discussions. Our customers abroad behave like a person who goes on a diet and goes to the supermarket, and checks the number of calories in each product. They check each product and how much damage the production process does to the environment. A customer who feels the product being offered is unfriendly will not buy it."

"Globes" The Dead Sea is drying up to a large extent because of you.

Grinbaum said, "In the early 1960s the government took the strategic decision to build the national water carrier and since then the flow of water from the Kinneret has significantly lessened. The sun shines and the water evaporates. We do not deny a degree of responsibility in the situation that has come about but the Israeli public knows the facts and knows what is causing the Dead Sea to dry up and that's regardless of whether the Dead Sea Works or the Jordanian potash plant draw water from the sea to manufacture their products."

Grinbaum explained that Israel Chemicals has decided in principle to close down the oil shale installation at Mishor Rotem in the Negev. The plant makes negligible profits and Israel Chemicals decided it was better to close the plant rather than cause future damage to the environment.

Grinbaum said, "In the coming weeks we will begin working in the region with natural gas, which is more environmentally friendly. Since we have entered the gas era, the need has opened up to look for other energy sources. The introduction of natural gas into the economy has changed the way we look at everything. In the future, a power station run by natural gas will operate two kilometers from the oil shale installation at Mishor Rotem. This is what makes Israel Chemicals a sustainable company, and it trickles down into all our discussions of how we lead measures that will leave a smaller footprint."

Over the past few years, some of Israel Chemical's environmental plans have already been implemented at the company's factories and installations at an investment of NIS 1 billion. One of the events that Grinbaum terms "Israel Chemicals green revolution" took place five years ago when Grinbaum himself managed potash mining activities at Rotem Amfert.

Grinbaum recalled, "I was new in the job. One of the workers came up to me and told me about a problem. There was a large fire in the Gamla national reserve on the Golan Heights and many vultures had taken refuge in the Mishor Rotem region where we mine phosphates. Two pairs of vultures built themselves a comfortable nest on a cliff and the noise from our factory was disturbing them. A demand was tabled that we stop mining for two months. At first I thought they were pulling my leg and having a joke, and I checked to see if it was April 1. The Israel Nature and National Parks Authority people came and said that it wasn't a joke. We looked with binoculars and saw the vultures nesting. They told me that if we continue mining they would fly away and that would be a shame. I thought about it and stopped mining for more than two months. That was when I realized that we are not the only ones in out there."

Since then Israel Chemicals staff routinely feed vultures in open areas far away from the company's plants in the Negev so that the big birds of prey will not nest nearby. Today the Negev vultures have flourished and there are 160 of them."

Published by Globes, Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on March 22, 2011

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2011

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