Versailles of Stud Farms Fears a €1.2bn Disaster

Prestigious French stud-farms in the Orne region — collectively considered the Versailles of Horse-Breeding– say the 190-year-old thoroughbred industry faces collapse if an open-air auto waste dump project under construction at Nonant-le-Pin (61) is allowed to come on stream.

Led by stud farms and horse lovers, the locals are up in arms at a waste dump that will deface the bucolic landscape and possibly ruin a multi million euro breeding industry.

Located some 230 kms southwest of Paris in the Normandy Basin, Nonant-le-Pin (population 500) has been home to France’s top stud farms and breeders of racing thoroughbreds almost since the sport of kings was first introduced back in 1818. The Administration des Haras or state-owned stud-farm was set up at that time by Jean Baptiste Colbert, Controller General of Finance under Louis XIV, the Sun King.

(See this history of Horse-Racing In France by Egbert Black for much more detail).

Regional officials, health authorities, local residents and the horse racing fraternity are horrified at a decision initially blocked by the local prefecture but later overturned by the High Court, to allow a 50 hectare waste dump — the largest such open-air disposal site in Europe — to be built. (The company claims it will be just 23ha.)  It will see an unsightly 2.4 million tonne-mountain of ferrous and non-ferrous metal, non-hazardous industrial, electric and electronic waste rise on a site just metres from the country’s leading stud farms.

Campaigners opposing the dump warn it could cause as much as 1.2 billion euros worth of losses to breeders, local farmers and the tourist industry over the planned 17-year life of the dump.

The privately owned waste company involved — La Société G.D.E (Guy Dauphin Environnement) refutes all complaints and insists what it calls its “environmental platform” will cause no pollution or health hazards– see the company statement in the video report below.

Locals protested over the summer as concerns continue over the health and safety of the waste dump

But Sauvegarde des Terres d’Elevage a campaign group chaired by local breeder Aliette Forien claims G.D.E is linked to Trafigura Beheer BV, a Dutch multinational commodity trading company with a poor environmental track record.  Trafigura was set up by Claude Dauphin current CEO at G.D.E and Eric de Turckheim and has powerful political allies. While not denying its past links G.D.E says that since 2010 it has severed all formal and legal associations with Trafigura.

More information about an earlier toxic waste dumping scandal in Cote d’Ivoire and involving Trafigura can be found here in this Amnesty international report  and here in English on the website of the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle  ( 25.09.2012). After a lengthy and controversial process the outcome of the scandal can be summed up as follows: On February 13, 2007 so as to release its executives jailed in response to the deaths of ten people and various illnesses affecting more than 100,000 people and attributed to waste dumping in West Africa, Trafigura paid €152 million to Côte d’Ivoire in compensation. The payment also exonerated Trafigura from further legal proceedings in Côte d’Ivoire.

On its website G.D.E — which as mentioned above says it severed all links to Trafigura in 2010 —  describes the project as follows:

“G.D.E in conjunction with relevant authorities has since 2006 been developing a platform for waste storage and waste sorting at Nonant-le-Pin, Normandy, Orne. This site covers 23 hectares with 90% of the site containing sealed landscaped waste bins and 10% allocated to waste sorting in a fenced zone. The Grenelle Environment sets out the regulations for site management of these materials applicable both to this site as to any other. There are more than 250 waste storage centres in France, which are governed by the Environmental Code, and where optimal waste sorting is seen as the best alternative to incinerators. G.D.E ’s Nonant-le-Pin platform was designed with the best available technology, and uses the latest generation of waste disposal techniques: incorporating a sorting centre to store only products that cannot be recycled. The G.D.E video clip presents the main features of the Nonant-le-Pin environmental platform and sets out reasons for choosing the site; describes the different sorted and stored materials and the biogas recycling technologies as well as the landscaping and environmental aspects of the site. Route de Lorguichon – BP 5 – 14540 ROCQUANCOURT, Calvados Tel. 02 31 27 16 16 – Fax: 02 31 79 95 67 E-mail”.   The detailed video clip with all this information can be viewed here.

Uproar as the small rural village of Nonet-le-Pin becomes the site of an open-sky waste dump

Both during its association with and after its divorce from Trafigura the firm has not however enjoyed much favourable press coverage in France judging by some of the reports on French websites: Déchets automobiles : nouvelle découverte or  TRAFIGURA mis à l’amende. In London reporting on Trafigura in September 2009 the leftwing Guardian newspaper headlined its piece: Inside Trafigura: Accusations, sour deals and friends in high places.

According to Libération reporting this summer: “Six years of legal tussle and administrative pirouettes have brought no results. Nonant-le-Pin in the Orne will in late 2013 become home to a landfill site for industrial and automotive waste set up by Guy Dauphin Environnement (G.D.E ) and this just a few paces from the prestigious Nonant-le-Pin National Stud Farm, where many of the best horses racing at Vincennes are bred”.

Alarmed farmers, breeders and residents met with Ecology Minister Delphine Batho on August 20 for a ” full review of the situation.” An indignant Aliette Forien, heiress to the Guerlain family fortune and owner of a stud farm just 2 km from the site told Libération the project was “a large open-air dump! “

Patrick Mussat, Vice President (UMP) of the General Council of the Orne told Libération: ” We are faced here with money power  … ” Elsewhere M. Mussat can be seen on video clips on these pages denouncing the project on health, environmental and economic grounds. “This is not just a dump, this is the worst of the worst a repository of final waste which cannot be recycled or reprocessed indeed that for which we have no other solution but a dump. There will inevitably be some heavy metals in the midst of all this waste,” he said.

Patrick Mussat vice president of the regional authority tells a TV reporter of his grave concerns.

He pointed to concerns raised in a report by Claude Lesné, a CNRS researcher, which notes that the waste destined for the site will contain “many toxic chemicals and potentially pose a very serious health hazard to the population and to the environment, as well posing a risk of spontaneous combustion.”  Philippe Delaunay whose family has ridden thoroughbreds from the area for five generations called it a sacrilege: “Can you imagine a landfill in the middle of the Bordeaux vineyards? This is the Saint-Emilion of racehorses!”

Despite initial planning consent setbacks and a block placed on the project in 2010 by the local prefecture, G.D.E. took the matter to High Court in Caen which overruled the decision in February 2011.

Alain Lambert, President of the General Council of the Orne, is a fierce defender of the project, insisting it will bring economic development to the département.

However Libération reports this argument just raises a smile from opponents. “This centre will create 12 direct jobs, paltry compared to the 250 existing jobs in the stud industry within a 5 km radius of the site” said Laurent Beauvais, President (PS) of the Basse-Normandie region. The economic future of this area is and will remain horse breeding and training, especially as we prepare to organise the Equestrian World Games in 2014.”

However Nonant mayor Jacques Queudeville welcomes the project on financial grounds: “At 3.50 euros per tonne, that makes 450 000 euros we will collect annually for the local budget.”  In the village itself the Mayor seems to have some support as feelings run high “against the stud farms.” These residents claim the village is being depopulated, as “for sale” signs multiply and shops  shut.

G.D.E began work in March on a site that represents the final link in its business chain — a landfill storage dump which it has until now lacked.

Media coverage has been extensive in a battle now in its sixth year

Libération noted that the firm has previous in terms of less than optimal concern for the environment. “In 2008, 40,000 tonnes of vehicle waste – similar to that which will now be dumped at Nonant – were discovered at Versainville (Calvados) in a parking lot. Once analysed the waste was shown to contain toxic heavy metals. In 2006, Claude Dauphin implicated in the Probo Koala scandal that caused 17 deaths through dumping toxic waste on the Ivory Coast on behalf of his company Trafigura, was jailed for five months on the Ivory Coast and released after a financial agreement was reached with government.”

Delphine Batho appears to have washed her hands of the problem however. She told Libération: “We inherited this matter from the previous government and must respect the decisions of the courts.” She promised however to be “extremely vigilant … There will be regular inspections “.

However furious locals led by stud owners are not taking it lying down as can be seen in  this recent report on a racing and horse breeding TV channel:

The  “Sauvegarde des Terres de Levage” association set up end March 2012  says it  remains confident that the negative opinion issued in 2007 by a Commission of Inquiry into the project and the refusal by the prefecture in 2010 to deliver planning consent will prevail in the end. The  association comprises local  horse breeders involved in professional horse racing and in trotting, French thoroughbred and horse sports.

In the video Patrick Mussat (see above) warns that 12 000 jobs are at risk from the dump which will “ruin the health of the population and of the economy of the region”. Other opponents say the cost to the local area in terms of risk outweigh any benefits from the project by a factor of 24.

An analysis of  the consolidation taking place in the waste disposal and management industry in France is provided in this 2012 report on

Ken Pottinger


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