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20 hospitalised after clashes at Kyrgyzstan's Chinese mine

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Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan) (AFP)

Twenty people were hospitalised in Kyrgyzstan following a skirmish between employees of a Chinese-owned mine and villagers living close to the gold deposit, officials said on Tuesday.

Nineteen employees of the Chinese company that operates the Solton Sary gold mine in the central province of Naryn and one villager had been hospitalised after a conflict on Monday, a health ministry spokeswoman said.

Around 300 villagers had gathered at the mine Monday to demand that the Chinese company cease work there, the interior ministry said.

"Both sides threw stones at each other" during the clashes that followed, the ministry said in a statement.

Zhong Ji Mining won a license for the Solton Sary gold field in 2012, shortly after a popular uprising that saw an uptick in conflicts between mining companies and local communities in the ex-Soviet country.

Pastoral farmers regularly accuse mining companies of causing ecological damage, accusations the companies deny.

Some of the biggest clashes in recent years have occurred in the eastern Issyk Kul province where a mine owned by Toronto-listed company Centerra Gold accounted for 8.5 percent of GDP in 2018.

Kyrgyzstan, a mountainous majority-Muslim republic of six million people in Central Asia, is the second poorest of the 15 countries which achieved independence after the Soviet collapse.

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