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Aircraft carrying Australians missing in Cameroon

world Updated: Jun 20, 2010 21:02 IST

The chairman, chief executive officer and top executives of an Australian mining firm were aboard a chartered plane that went missing after it took off in Cameroon, Australian mining officials said on Sunday.

The aircraft, chartered by Australian company Sundance Resources Ltd, Saturday was carrying nine passengers, including six executives, from Yaounde to Yangadou in the neighboring Republic of Congo where the company has a mining site, according to a statement released by Sundance Resources on Sunday.

Republic of Congo is located in Central Africa and is often overshadowed by its much larger neighbor, Congo.

A Cameroon official for the company said the plane went missing as it flew to its first stop in Mbalam, another of the firm's mining sites located in Cameroon's eastern region. The official spoke to The Associated Press Sunday on condition of anonymity because she is not authorized to speak to the press.

A statement released by the company said those aboard the plane included Geoff Wedlock, chairman for Sundance Resources, and Don Lewis, the company's CEO.

The company said families have been notified and a ground search will begin.

"All operations at site have been suspended, with all in-country resources dedicated to this search and rescue effort," the company said in its statement.

The search is being coordinated by Cameroon, Gabonese and Republic of Congo authorities with support from Australian, Canadian and U.S. foreign officials, it said.

Sundance Resources also said it would ask the Australian Stock Exchange to suspend the company's shares before trading opens Monday.

Sundance executives had been in Cameroon in recent days to meet with officials about the company's Mbalam project, which could earn the West African country billions of dollars over 25 years, according to the Cameroon official.

Sundance has a 90 percent stake in Cameroon Iron Ore Company (Camiron S.A.) which owns more than 1,000 square miles (1,800 square kilometers) of fields with estimated reserves of 2.2 million tons of mineral resources.

Although Camiron SA authorities declined to officially comment on the incident, the company is holding an emergency meeting in at its headquarters in Yaounde.