Ex-Nkwe CEO dies in Congo plane crash

[miningmx.com] — FORMER Nkwe Platinum CEO Craig Oliver was among the Sundance Resources executives killed in a plane crash in the Republic of Congo on June 19.

Eleven people died in the crash, including the entire board of directors of Australian junior miner Sundance which is developing an iron ore project in Cameroon.

Oliver was a non-executive director of Sundance, but will be well remembered in South African mining circles for running junior exploration company Nkwe Platinum.

Oliver impressed with the enthusiastic way he flung himself into the SA junior mining scene from 2003, as well as his wholehearted acceptance of the socio-economic principles of the new South Africa.

He was a constant commuter between Perth and Johannesburg, but insisted on travelling in economy to conserve shareholder funds.

I encountered him in economy on one of these flights, where he received “rock star” treatment from the South African Airways flight attendants.

They clearly could not understand why he was in economy, given that he held the highest category frequent flyer ranking because of the air miles he had racked up.

I noted they made sure he had a spare seat next to him, and even brought him food from the business class section.

Oliver was a highly likeable and outgoing businessman. He came very close to pulling off a company-making deal for Nkwe that ultimately went the way of entrepreneur Loucas Pouroulis.

In early 2004 Nkwe was awarded exclusive rights by Anglo Platinum (AngloPlat) to finalise the development of a platinum mine on the farm Elandsfontein near Brits.

Elandsfontein is the farm on which Pouroulis developed Eland Platinum, which he sold to Xstrata in 2007 for R7.5bn.

But in September 2004 AngloPlat arbitrarily terminated the process. No official reason was ever given.

It’s understood that Barry Davison, then the chairman of AngloPlat, objected to the participation of SA lawyer-turned-mining entrepreneur Martin Brink in the Nkwe consortium.

The two men had a long and bitter history of business and personal confrontations, and it seemed Davison had not initially realised that Brink was part of Nkwe.

This speculation was denied by Oliver at the time, but he subsequently resigned as Nkwe CEO and returned full-time to Australia.

In addition to Oliver, the Sundance Resources personnel killed in the crash included chairman Geoff Wedlock, CEO Don Lewis, company secretary John Carr-Gregg, non-executive director Ken Talbot, non-executive director John Jones and consultant Jeff Duff.

Four others also died in the crash: the two pilots, a British citizen and a French citizen.

The plane disappeared on Saturday and the wreckage was discovered on the western ridge of the Avima Range in the Republic of Congo near the Gabon border on Monday.

A team of 10 French military personnel was deployed to the site by helicopter, but found no survivors. Australian mining contractors located in the vicinity are clearing access tracks to the accident site.