Dozens were injured in the melee on Saturday in Yulin city, a resource-rich area in Shaanxi province, when villagers attacked the mine, smashing gates and mining facilities in an effort to halt production, the China Daily said.
More than 100 villagers, armed with shovels and other tools, clashed with 70 mine workers who were mobilised to drive the attackers away, the report said. A local official put the total number of injured at 87. Six of them were seriously hurt and were undergoing treatment.
The Shandong Coal Mine was set up as a collectively-owned mine in 1995 by local villagers, who later brought in an outside investor when cash ran short, it said. But in 2000, the businessman, identified as Li Zhao, converted the mine into a private firm when he renewed the facility’s licence, it added.
Court rulings in 2005 and 2007 nullified Mr Li’s move, the paper said, but the mine boss, apparently backed by local land and resource officials, refused to share profits with the villagers, exacerbating the dispute. The mine produces 300,000 tonnes of coal annually. Production at the mine was halted on Saturday and the mine’s bank accounts were frozen, the paper said.