Aus tycoon's plane missing

2010-06-21 11:39

Sydney - Australian mining magnate Ken Talbot, who was on a plane which went missing in Africa, is among the country's richest men but known to describe himself as "a humble coalminer".

The son of a truck driver, Talbot began work in the industry as a cadet industrial chemist with BHP's steelworks south of Sydney in 1969, before moving to Queensland in the 1980s where he made his fortune in coal.

He founded Macarthur Coal, reportedly naming it for the US General Douglas Macarthur who had vowed "I shall return", and it thrived in the mining boom after being listed on the Australian Stock Exchange in 2001.

Macarthur Coal chairperson Keith De Lacy described Talbot as an entrepreneur who knows how to get people to work together and an extraordinarily generous person.

"He'd have a corporate box at the football and he'd invite people along. He'd spend all night looking after them as though he was the butler," De Lacy told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

"He always said 'yes, I'm just a humble coalminer'."

Developed five mines

De Lacy said Talbot was not unduly worried about being charged with paying secret commissions to a former Queensland state minister - charges for which he was due to face court in August.

Talbot was expected to defend himself by saying he gave money to lots of causes, The Australian reported in an article which noted the country's 32nd richest person never forgot his humble beginnings.

On his Talbot Group website, the 59-year-old magnate is described as having two decades' experience as a chief executive or managing director in the coal industry and a pioneer of the market for low volatile PCI coals.

"During his career he has developed five coal mines, including two as an owner," it says, adding that he was a director of the Queensland Resources Council from 2001 to 2007.

With a personal fortune of some Aus$965m, Talbot owns luxury real estate and a private jet.

He is director of the well-known Western Australian mineral resources industry player Sundance Resources.

Six people associated with the company, including its top executives, are missing and feared dead after their plane disappeared in the border area near Cameroon, the Congo and Gabon on Saturday.

The group were in the area to investigate an iron ore prospect.