Peter Ker June 23, 2012
The plane was heading to the Mbalam mining camp in the Congo when it crashed.
SUNDANCE Resources has vowed to vigorously defend a pair of ''bitterly disappointing'' lawsuits lodged against it by family members of the directors who were killed in an African plane crash.
Revelations that legal action had been started in two countries came on the same day that controversial Chinese group Hanlong was given approval by Australian regulators to push ahead with its takeover of Sundance.
The entire Sundance board - chairman Geoff Wedlock, chief executive Don Lewis, company secretary John Carr-Gregg and non-executive directors Ken Talbot, John Jones and Craig Oliver - were among 11 people who died in June 2010 when a light aircraft crashed in the Republic of Congo.
The plane had been hired by Sundance Resources, as the directors were there to inspect African resources projects.
Wives and family of the dead - excluding the Oliver and Talbot families - have launched legal proceedings in Cameroon, and are expected to begin proceedings soon in the US state of Illinois.
The Cameroon action has been served on Sundance's 90 per cent-owned subsidiary Cam Iron SA, and there are four other respondents including an aviation instrument manufacturer in the US state of Kansas.
The US legal process is expected to be largely the same but is expected to include Sundance Resources as a respondent. Both claims are for unspecified damages.
Sundance chairman George Jones - who came out of retirement to run the company in the wake of the crash - told BusinessDay that several wives of the deceased directors were involved in the claim.
"I personally am bitterly disappointed they are doing this,'' he said. ''The company has made a very substantial payment to the wives, and we do not believe the claim is justified.
"The draft report [of the investigation into the crash] that I've seen indicates that it was pilot error."
The court action is unfortunate timing for Sundance, which recently passed an important agreement with the Cameroon government to push ahead with development of the Mbalam iron ore project.
That project is highly prospective, and has brought Sundance to the attention of foreign investors such as Hanlong.
Approval from Chinese authorities is all that stands between Hanlong and its proposed takeover of Sundance, following yesterday's approval from Australia's Foreign Investment Review Board.
FIRB gave the green light despite recent insider trading accusations being levelled against several Hanlong executives.
Sundance shares finished 2.5¢ higher at 36¢.