World News

Australian mining magnate on missing Africa plane

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australian mining magnate Ken Talbot and five other senior figures from the iron ore miner Sundance Resources Ltd were aboard a company aircraft that disappeared in Africa, the company said Sunday.

The plane carrying Talbot, one of Australia’s richest men, disappeared Saturday on a flight from the Cameroon capital Yaounde to Yangadou in neighbouring Congo Republic, the company said in a statement.

Talbot is a director of Perth-based Sundance Resources, which is trying to develop a major iron ore mine in Cameroon, and his own company Talbot Group is a major shareholder. Sundance Resources plans to bring the Mbalam iron ore project into production in 2012.

Also missing is Sundance Resources chairman Geoff Wedlock and chief executive Don Lewis, plus three other senior company figures, the firm said. The six were among nine passengers on the flight who were on a visit to the company’s iron ore projects in Cameroon and Congo Republic.

A search for the aircraft by Cameroon, Congo Republic and Gabon is under way, with assistance from Australian, Canadian and U.S. diplomats.

Cameroon’s government that said aside from the six Australians, two British, two French and one American were on the aircraft, which it identified as a CASA C212 prop plane.

Aviation officials lost contact with the plane about an hour after it took off from Yaounde en route to Yangadou in the northwest of Congo Republic, it added.

Cameroon sent three aircraft Sunday to help in the search and rescue effort, it said, adding that Congo Republic had sent up planes to search as well.

Sundance Resources said it would ask the Australian Stock Exchange to suspend its shares before trading opens Monday. “All operations at site have been suspended, with all in-country resources dedicated to this search and rescue effort,” the company said.

Talbot is a well-known figure in Australian mining, as founder and former chief executive of Macarthur Coal.

Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith has confirmed six Australians were on the flight.

Additional reporting by Samson Websi in Yaounde; editing by David Stamp