SOLTON-SARY, Kyrgyzstan -- Dozens of people have been injured in clashes between local residents and workers from a Chinese company at a gold mine in eastern Kyrgyzstan.
About 500 local residents gathered near the mine on August 5 and entered the construction site of a new industrial facility operated by China's Zhong Ji Mining, where they brawled with Chinese workers and seized several trucks belonging to the company.
The Kyrgyz Health Ministry said on August 6 that 20 Chinese workers had been hospitalized with different injuries after the conflict.
Several locals also sustained injuries, according to the residents, who remain at the site demanding that the Chinese company leave the mining area.
Deputy Prime Minister Kubatbek Boronov and Interior Minister Kashkar Junushaliev have arrived at the site and have called on the local residents to disperse.
However, the residents said they will start removing the company's equipment from the area themselves if the authorities do not do so.
The conflict has been brewing since July after locals blamed the Chinese company for the mass death of livestock, saying the mining firm has contaminated the local environment.
Authorities tested soil samples and said they had not found any chemicals or high levels of radiation.
Tensions remain, however, and two local residents ended up in hospital after they fought with Chinese workers.
That sparked the August 5 clashes and the subsequent protests.
Prime Minister Mukhammedkalyi Abylgaziev has ordered a thorough investigation of the conflict and on August 6 warned that those in the area should not turn the conflict into a political issue.
Zhong Ji Ming obtained a license to develop the Solton-Sary gold mine in 2012.
Experts estimate that the site has some 11 tons of gold.