(REUTERS) -- Heavily armed robbers tried to steal a stack of gold bars from a plane at an airstrip near a mine in Tanzania owned by AngloGold Ashanti but were thwarted by the country's police.

Police said on Friday five masked men emerged from a nearby forest and attempted to grab 587 kg of gold bars from the plane parked at Africa's biggest gold producer's Geita mine near the northern town of Mwanza on the shores of Lake Victoria.

Such raids are not uncommon and one of Anglogold's rivals which has been a victim in the past has had to build a wall around one of its mines to secure it from attacks by villagers.

Police said one of the robbers was killed and they recovered two sub-machine guns and a pistol. An expatriate worker at the mine suffered bullet wounds to his hand and was flown to Nairobi, the capital of Kenya for treatment, said police.

Incidents such as these are usually carried out by a syndicate and also involve somebody from the inside who told the robbers that a plane usually flies from the airstrip every Thursday with gold bars, Mwanza regional crimes officer, Deusdedit Nsimeki, told Reuters by telephone.

The robbers, who wore military-style clothing, had sub-machine guns and hand grenades. They were trying to steal a cargo of gold bars weighing some 586.6 kilos, which is worth billions of shillings.

The mine's security guards raised the alarm after the robbers tried to ambush the plane. Police arrived and fired at the robbers, who shot back resulting in a fierce gun battle.

African Barrick Gold said in October it was building a 14-kilometre wall around its North Mara Gold mine, which consists of four open pits, after it experienced several attacks over the past few years.

In 2008, some 200 people attacked the mine and destroyed property worth $7 million.

AngloGold, the world's third-largest producer says on its website that Geita produced 149,000 ounces of gold out of a total of about 1 million ounces from all its mines during the quarter to the end of September last year.

Tanzania, Africa's fourth-largest producer of the precious metal, has seven gold-producing mines, four of which are owned by African Barrick Gold (ABG), a spin-off of Barrick Gold Crop., the world's No. 1 bullion producer.