Eilat Mayor Meir Yitzhak Halevy and Eilot Regional Council head Udi Gat have asked Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for an urgent meeting to ask him to provide government funding for the development of a copper factory at the ancient Timna copper mines, the oldest copper mines in the world, reports www.mynet.co.il. Halevy and Gat say that if the project does not get the funding, 150 workers will lose their jobs immediately and a further 2,400 jobs will not be created.
According to the report, the Arava Mines Company, a subsidiary of Mexico's Ahmsa Steel Company, has been running a pilot copper factory at the Timna mines for the past few years which currently employs 150 workers.
The company had planned to build a bigger, $250 million factory this year that would have directly created a further 600 jobs and another 1,800 jobs indirectly, but in December the government decided that the company did not meet the criteria for a government grant, and the company is now threatening to close down, fire its workers and relocate to Jordan.
"The factory... would contribute greatly to the economy of Eilat and the Eilot region and to the development of this district in every field of life," the two mayors wrote to Olmert. "We cannot understand how, after all the repeated declarations about the development of the periphery and the Negev, and the placing of Eilat and Eilot at the head of the list of priorities, the government is doing nothing, and even urgent requests for discussions on the subject... receive no response." No response to the plea was reported.