Plane with 9 passengers goes missing in Cameroon

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Old 20-Jun-2010
Plane with 9 passengers goes missing in Cameroon

Six Australian mining executives are on board a plane that has gone missing in the African nation of Cameroon.

The executives are from the Western Australian-based iron ore company Sundance Resources.

Queensland mining magnate Ken Talbot, who is due to face court in August charged with paying secret commissions to disgraced former Labor minister Gordon Nuttall between 2002 and 2005, was also reportedly on board the flight.

Mr Talbot is alleged to have deposited $8,333 each month for three years into Nuttall's Queenslanders Credit Union account.

He is estimated to be worth nearly a $1 billion and was the founder of Macarthur Coal.

He stepped aside as managing director of the company amid the controversy in 2006.

Another Perth-based Sundance director and HWE Mining executive John Jones is also believed to have been on the plane.

A spokesman from Leighton Holdings, the parent company of HWE Mining, would not confirm if Mr Jones was on board, although a family friend told reporters he was missing.

A statement from Sundance says the chartered plane, carrying nine people in total, was reported missing after it failed to reach its destination on Saturday.

"The flight was carrying nine passengers, predominantly from Sundance Resources, who were visiting the company's iron ore project in Cameroon and Congo," it said.

"The families of the missing have been notified and are being supported during this deeply distressing time."

Sundance said an extensive search is now underway.

"A comprehensive air and ground search will commence at first daylight local time on Sunday (approx 3.30pm AEST)."

"A Congolese aircraft will be involved in the search."

The company promised a further update as more information became available says it is coordinating with government authorities in Cameroon and Congo, as well as with Department of Foreign Affairs representatives in the region to locate the aircraft.

DFAT says the high commissioner to Abuja is in Cameroon managing the government's response on the ground.

Two other officials will also travel to Cameroon.

Sundance's chief focus is its Mbalam ore project in Cameroon which is potentially worth billions over its lifetime.

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