A mob of horsemen armed with sticks and petrol bombs attacked an exploration camp run by South African miner Gold Fields' joint venture in Kyrgyzstan, the latest in a series of assaults on mining companies in the Central Asian state.
Talas Copper Gold, a joint venture between Gold Fields and Britain's Orsu Metals, said on Monday that its security manager was severely beaten as he fled from a burning building at the exploration camp in Talas province.
The company said in a statement that the attack occurred shortly after midnight in the early hours of Saturday morning. Around 10 horsemen set fire to several buildings, it said.
This incident does not appear to follow from any community action but seems to be a premeditated attack by a small group, the company said. It said the security manager was recovering in hospital.
The latest incident is another warning to potential foreign investors in Kyrgyzstan's mining sector. Talas Copper Gold said a criminal investigation was under way and that it would start its new drilling programme in November as planned.
Kyrgyzstan, a former Soviet republic of 5.5 million people, is preparing to elect its next president on Oct. 30, following a year in which its former leader was overthrown and hundreds were killed in mob violence.
Attacks on prospective mining developments in Kyrgyzstan have occurred on several occasions since the April 2010 revolution, disrupting attempts by the new government to develop a viable mining industry in the gold-rich republic.
Talas Copper Gold itself suffered a similar attack in March. Australian miner Kentor Gold has said supporters of its Andash copper and gold development, also in Talas province, have been threatened.
Employees of a Chinese-owned mining company were beaten in August at a separate development in Naryn province.
A single gold mine, Kumtor, contributes around 10 percent of Kyrgyzstan's gross domestic product and nearly half of its industrial production. Owned by Toronto-listed Centerra Gold Inc , it produced 7.8 million ounces, or 243 tonnes, from its launch in May 1997 to the end of 2010.
Prime Minister Almazbek Atambayev, who is running for president, told Reuters in June that the government would weed out corruption in the mining sector to secure the proceeds from many untapped metals deposits.
Talas Copper Gold has four exploration licences -- Barkol, Taldybulak, Kentash and Korgontash -- and has invested $15 million between 2005 and 2010. It has planned a further $2.5 million of investment this year.