The Australian mining industry was left reeling in June of 2010 as news broke that the wreckage of an aircraft chartered by iron-ore explorer Sundance Resources was found in the Republic of Congo. No survivors were found. The aircraft, carrying the entire Sundance Resources board, went missing as they made their way to the company’s Mbalam iron-ore project, on the border of Cameroon and the Republic of Congo, to conduct high-level meetings with government representatives of both countries.
Former Sundance chairman George Jones said the board had shared the flight as Mr. Talbot’s private jet was unable to land on the airstrip at Yangadou, a remote mining town where only smaller aircraft could land. “It’s unusual for an entire board to be on a single aircraft. It actually breaches corporate governance and obviously relates to the fact they could only get on one plane,” Mr. Jones told Fairfax Radio. A tragic event and one that will remain with the families, employees, and the mining community, for many years to come.
Given the extent of this tragedy and its aftermath, significant and expedient measures were required to ensure that all current and future risk for Sundance, was being assessed, managed, and effective processes implemented. This challenge was twofold. Addressing both the corporate and operational risks, simultaneously. We, (now iCARE) were engaged by Sundance Resources and held several key and poignant discussions with the Sundance Executive and Management teams, and an immediate strategy was developed.
This strategy involved the creation of a Corporate HSE Management System structure, based on the overall risk profile of the business, its operating location, and the operational activities being conducted. The strategy focused heavily on operational location, and high-risk activities, (predominately the types of potential events that were present on a continual or regular basis). As the corporate management system structure was being developed, in parallel to this, were several risk studies and assessments, and site visits, involving key in-country management and operational personnel.
By late 2010, the corporate system framework was finalised, as well as the supporting critical functions that managed the Sundance operational activities, including the ‘Sundance Essentials’, which dealt with high-risk activities being performed on a regular basis. This particular project was not only a very visible one in the public eye but one that required a bespoke and expedient approach.
In February 2011, Sundance Resources were operating a complete and effective Corporate and Operational HSE Management System. Initiated by a truly tragic event however, a swift and successful outcome resulted due to our experience, bespoke approach, continual and meaningful engagement with the key executives within Sundance Resources, and the unwavering support of the Sundance leadership, in-country management, supervision, and operational teams.