Kinross chartered plane crashes in Mauritania, 7 dead

(Reuters) - A plane chartered by Canadian gold miner Kinross Gold crashed shortly after takeoff in Mauritania on Thursday, killing all seven people on board, the company said.

The Harbin Y-12-II military plane was chartered to carry gold from Kinross’s Tasiast mine, located some 300 kilometers (185 miles) north of the Mauritanian capital of Nouakchott. It crashed after takeoff from Nouakchott en route to the mine.

“The plane crashed inside the Nouakchott airport perimeter just after taking off,” said Colonel Teyib ould Brahim, a spokesman for Mauritania’s armed forces.

Witnesses said the plane caught fire before crashing but the cause was not clear.

Kinross said two pilots, two customs officials and three contract security guards were killed in the crash. No Kinross employees were on board.

Kinross, Canada’s third largest gold miner, is in the process of expanding the Tasiast mine, which produced about 200,000 ounces of gold in 2011 and has proven and probable reserves of about 7.5 million ounces.

The Toronto-based company acquired the mine through its $7.1 billion takeover of Red Back Mining in 2010. Kinross booked a massive $2.94 billion noncash goodwill impairment charge in the fourth quarter of 2011 related to that acquisition.

Kinross, which also owns mines in the Americas and Russia, expects to produce 2.6 million to 2.8 million gold equivalent ounces in 2012.

Shares of the miner fell 2.25 percent to C$7.82 on Thursday morning on the Toronto Stock Exchange as caution ahead of second-quarter economic growth figures from top metals consumer China weighed on the market’s mining sector.

($1=$1.02 Canadian)

Reporting by Julie Gordon in Toronto and Laurent Prieur in Nouakchott; Editing by Peter Galloway