Within the next four months, Dimona Silica plans to build a factory in Nahal Zin Wadi in order to supply China with high-quality asphalt.
Since its inception, Dimona Silica Industries Ltd. has been plagued with a dodgy reputation. After its involvement with the 2004 Investment Promotions Center scandal, where it was found that then Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor Ehud Olmert (of Monster on the Mountain infamy) illegally offered a $10 million grant to help the company develop a proprietary asphalt mix called iBind, the company almost faltered.
An infusion of foreign investment has since saved them from obscurity, but at grave environmental cost. Founder Ephraim Fernblum handed over the company to his son-in-law Ronen Peled, who recently won a $6 million contract to line a Chinese highway with a rare mineral deposit found only in the Negev desert.
Not a chemist by training, Fernblum told Globes how he came to invent the IBind mix, which is said to prolong the lifespan of roads twofold and create a much quieter ride.
He said he was looking at a poster of a tire on the road, and wondered if adding silicate to the asphalt mix would improve its quality and even spare tires from undue destruction. That thought led to a series of experiments and tests from Russians and the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology.
Although Israel’s Investment Promotions Center’s director, Shmuel Mordechai originally ruled the project insufficiently viable for a government-sponsored grant, Olmert gave it $10 million. Peled claims that most of that money was not received and that foreign investment enabled them to continue their R&D.
The company claims that their product is more environmentally-friendly than conventional asphalt mixes since there is no need to heat the asphalt, and emissions are reduced by 30%.
But the Nahal Zinn in the Negev desert is the only place in the world where the mineral deposit on which the mix depends can be mined. At 75 miles long, the Nahal Zin is the Negev desert’s largest Wadi (valley) and comprises the biblical southern border of Canaan, according to Bible Places. 6th century C.E. monks sculpted closets, shelves, benches, stairs and water system into the limestone cliffs.
Dimona boasted its ambitions to Globes:
The sky’s the limit. We’ve got something and we have no intention of missing it, says Peled. We have more obstacles to pass. We never received most of the government grant. Now that the material is shown to work and is viable from any perspective, there is no reason not to release the money to us. There is no reason for not building here the first production line of the chemicals products industry in Israel for export. We have something to offer, and it will only do good for Dimona and the south.
The company plans to build a factory within the next four months in Dimona, which will provide jobs to 50 people – mostly Negev residents. But we must ask: when will company’s appetite for success be satiated? When all of the Nahal Zin Wadi has been shipped to China?
More Industries that sacrifice Israel’s pristine environments:
Dead Sea Worker Exposes Environmental Disaster Through Film
Israeli Black Globe Award Went to IEI For Oil Shale Agenda
Canadians Fight Tar Sands, Israelis Fight Oil Shale
image via wikicommons