PHILIPSBURG – The choice of VROMI-Minister Christophe Emmanuel for the Canadian company Envirogreen Energy for the waste-to-energy facility on Pond Island seems to be more than a coincidence. Envirogreen Energy belongs to the GK Group Holdings that also owns another company: Sea to Sky Ventures.
The website of Sea to Sky ventures just happens to show a brief video featuring Claudius Buncamper, currently the Acting Secretary-General at Minister Emmanuel’s VROMI-ministry, where he promotes the development of a zip-line project on the Buncamper property that overlooks the port in Philipsburg.
“Hi, I’m Tony Buncamper. I’m one of the heirs of the Buncamper family, a very old and traditional family from this beautiful island in the Caribbean called St. Maarten, the Friendly Island.” Buncamper says on the video. “And you know, we want to do something for this island as a family and we were looking for a good partner.”
The video describes the Pelican Peak Lookout project, a plan for a zip-line called Flightlinez SXM. If the plan ever became a reality, it would have a visitor’s entrance at the St. Peters Battery and include walking paths and concessions along Pelican’s Nest.
Former Prime Minister Marcel Gumbs revealed in 2015 that Buncamper had asked a permit for the development of this project and that he had also asked for exclusivity. That is no longer possible, given the fact that Rainforest Adventures has already opened its zip-line business at the Emilio Wilson Estate.
Stmaartennews.com approached Sea to Sky ventures CEO Geoff Bell – who has been invited to Parliament by President Sarah Wescot-Williams to clarify the plans for the waste-to-energy facility - with the question whether the Pelican Lookout project will still become a reality, but so far, Mr. Bell has not reacted to our email.
The Dutch daily Trouw published an article about the waste-to-energy project on Monday. The newspaper quotes Minister Emmanuel saying: “The youngest minister came within a year with an elaborate plan. Much more than any minister before him.”
As far as ministers is concerned this is true, but the reality is that there was already a complete plan for the waste-to-energy facility back in 2009, when St. Maarten was still an island territory within the Netherlands Antilles. The plan is described in a report written by Ecovision and RoyalHasKoning.
The data in that report shed doubts on Emmanuel’s statement that the current dump would be reduced to half its size within fifteen years.
The 2009-report states that the WTE-facility would mine 10,000 tons of garbage from the existing landfill every year. At the time, St. Maarten produced 140,000 tons of garbage annually. If that number has not changed since 2009, the dump has grown since then by the end of this year by nine times 140,000 tons: 1,260,000 tons.
During the next 18 months (if construction began today – but it won’t) the dump grows by an additional 210,000 tons, bringing the total since 2009 to 1,470,000 tons.
The 2009 plan projected that the facility would reduce the volume of incoming waste by 95 percent. This means that of every 140,000 tons, the island will still be stuck with 7,000 tons of probably highly toxic waste residue.
Just to get rid of the waste the island produced since 2009 in fifteen years – assuming a total of 1,470,000 tons – the waste-to-energy facility would have to mine 98,000 tons a year. that’s close to ten times as much as the Ecovision/RoyalHasKoning report of 2009 projected.
The number is even higher if one considers the waste residue of 5 percent for each of these 15 years – an additional 105,000 tons.
Also take into account that the dump has been there since 1970 and that the accumulated waste represents a huge tonnage.
Bringing the landfill back to the level of 2009, based on a realistic mining capacity of 10,000 tons a year, would take 147 years and still leave an additional 105,000 tons of waste residue.
That Emmanuel’s plan for the facility is all that brand new is also not accurate. In July 2014, the board of the National Alliance said in a statement to the media that construction of the project should have started in 2013: “Upon leaving government we had already concluded all the interviews with the four companies that were picked from a total of seven. A decision should have been made by the end of June 2013. The timeline of Cabinet William Marlin had this project beginning construction in August 2013 and almost finalized by now. We hope that this is not a case of waiting until election time to reveal something hoping to gather support on Election Day."
All this confirms what the Trouw-article wrote about environmentalist Fleur Hermanides: “She has seen so many plans come by, especially during election time.”
Trouw also quotes Claudius Buncamper, who apparently holds office in a shack at the landfill. “He knows all the plans that have been made during the past forty years about disposing of or recycling of garbage. They all failed. People in power, who made money from the dump, always threw a spanner in the works.”
With the link between Minister Emmanuel, the GK Group Holdings and its companies Envirogreen Energy and Sea to Sky Ventures and Claudius Buncamper, the story has now come full circle.
Claudius Buncamper, as he appears in the
of Sea to Sky ventures. Photo screenshot.