PERTH (miningweekly.com) – ASX-listed iron-ore explorer Sundance Resources was thrown into turmoil over the weekend as an airplane carrying its entire board went missing between Cameroon and the Republic of Congo.
A chartered aircraft carrying chairperson Geoff Wedlock, MD and CEO Don Lewis, company secretary John Car-Gregg, and nonexecutive directors Ken Talbot, John Jones and Craig Oliver was reported missing on Saturday after it failed to reach its destination while on a flight to Yangadou in the Republic of Congo.
Four other people, including the two pilots were also on board.
Sundance’s board was to undertake meetings with high-level government officials in both countries. Although against company policy to have all executives on the same flight, the decision was made after taking safety and flight availability into consideration.
Sundance CFO and acting CEO Peter Canterbury told reporters in Perth on Monday that the company’s operations in Cameroon and the Congo had been suspended until further notice as its focus shifted to finding the missing aircraft.
Search and rescue operations were launched on Sunday, but ceased at nightfall. Canterbury noted that the search would resume on Monday.
In total, four fixed-wing aircraft and seven helicopters, along with ground teams have been mobilised to cover a 300-km search area, which is densely covered by foliage and low-hanging clouds.
However, considering the geography of the terrain, the consensus on Monday was that the search and rescue mission would be “difficult”.
In conjunction with its operations suspension, Sundance has also halted trading of its shares until further notice.
With Canterbury’s appointment as acting CEO, Sundance has also appointed three strategic advisers on an interim basis, including former Sundance chairperson George Jones.
Canterbury said that the advisers would support and provide guidance to Sundance in the execution of a range of strategic and corporate operational matters.
Solicitor Michael Blakiston and Azure Capital director Adam Rankine-Wilson were also appointed as interim advisers.
Jones told reporters on Monday that in the worst-case scenario, the company would survive with a strong balance sheet and capable management.
“When I stepped down from the company I did that in the knowledge that the company is in very strong hands.
“They had very experienced executives and first class, and a company cannot lose that many people and not be affected by it. The processes that were in place are still operating well, with the possible exception of everyone being on one plane, is still very robust and with the advisory team and the senior management, I’m sure that while it would be a big setback, it will not mortally wound Sundance.”
Meanwhile, ASX-listed Jupiter Mines, has also requested a trading halt. Wedlock serves on the Jupiter board as the nonexecutive chairperson. Wedlock is also the chairperson of iron-ore producer Gindalbie Metals.
Sundance Resources is an Australia-based international iron-ore company developing the Mbalam project in Cameroon.