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Australia Mourns Mining Executives Killed in Plane Crash

Talbot Group Holdings shows Queensland mining magnate Ken Talbot (top C) with management board members of Sundance Resources, killed in West Africa Plane Crash, 21 June 2010

Australia is mourning the deaths of several mining executives, including billionaire tycoon Ken Talbot, in a plane crash in West Africa. The entire management board of Sundance Resources was wiped out in the accident, leaving the company in crisis.

The mining industry has made the Australian economy one of the world's most resilient, so the deaths of so many influential figures has made headlines around the country.

Eleven people died when a twin-engine aircraft crashed Saturday into thick jungle near Congo's border with Cameroon in West Africa.

The Australian government says that retrieving the bodies from such inaccessible terrain could be "painstaking".

Among the dead is one of Australia's richest men, Ken Talbot. He made his fortune through a network of pubs before founding a successful mining company, which he later sold.

Talbot was to go on trial in Brisbane in August on corruption charges. He had denied bribing a former minister in the Queensland state government.

Friends have remembered a man who was committed to his business and his family.

Former Sundance chairman, George Jones, has been trying to help bereaved relatives cope with their sudden loss.

"I have spoken to a couple of them this evening myself. I have been up all night, overnight and it has not been a pleasant experience, but I cannot tell you how tragic it is on behalf of the families. There are young children involved. It is quite overwhelming to lose so many people in one incident," he said.

The plane's flight recorder has been recovered, although Australian authorities say it is too early to say what caused the crash.

The plane had been chartered by the Australian mining company, Sundance Resources. Chairman Geoff Wedlock and other senior executives were on board.

The Perth company says the executives were visiting an iron ore facility that straddles the border between Cameroon and Congo, a project that could generate billions of dollars and provide long-term employment in the region.

The Sundance team had traveled to West Africa as part of plans to expand its operations in the region.

The tragedy prompted the suspension of the company's shares on the Australian Stock Exchange while a new management team is assembled.