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Gold mining site in Palyul county, TAP, Sichuan, China

In Palyul county, on August 17, 2010 four Tibetans, protesting against the mining environmental damages, were killed by the police in a shooting. They picked outside local governmental office for three days to complain the increasing mining operation.


The area of Palyul County is a Buddhist region filled with monasteries and nunneries and is known for its strong Tibetan identity and for being at the center of dissent for years. It saw some of the most violent protests in the spring of 2008 after anti-government riots in Tibet. [3] The project proposed by Chinese firm Kartin would devastate arable land, increase pollution and compromise the environment. There is fear that the excavations may also alter the geophysical balance: nearby counties Drukchu (Zhouqu in Gansu) and Gyegudo (Yushu, Qinghai), have suffered earthquakes and landslides which locals attributed to mining and excavation for public works. Therefore the residents had asked for more geological inquiries and tests. [4]  On August 13, 2010 approximately a group of 100 local Tibetans, led by village head Tashi Sangpo, traveled from Sharchu Gyashoe village, Palyul (Ch: Baiyu) County in Karze (Ch: Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, and met outside a local government building to protest about an increase in gold mining activities in the area. The village leader previously wrote to the local authorities expressing concerns over mining in the area conducted by the Kartin Company, Shanghai-based, including the impact on the environment and overcrowding due to the influx of Chinese workers that severely degraded the fertility of their farmland, and adversely affected the local grassland habitat. He called for an end to the expansion of mining and for compensation for the local community [1] [5]. According to one Tibetan in exile, the protest developed because the local authorities were seeking to increase the number of mining sites in the area, in fact heavy equipment was brought in for this grow mining operations and Tibetans began to put together petitions against the mines. [5] Some of the protestors were detained, but the protestors refused to leave until they received a response and they picketed in front of the government office for three days. In the evening of 17 August Chinese security forces began to remove the protestors by using gas to leave them unconscious and to load those incapacitated into a truck. Several Tibetans began scuffling with the police, who responded by indiscriminately opening fire, killing three or four Tibetans, including the protest’s leader. Around 30 Tibetans got bullet wounded, some critically, and several others were detained and  two policemen were also reportedly injured as well. [1] According to RFA, citing a Tibetan monk based in India, additional security had been sent to the area to quell unrest and the roads have been blocked and residents have had their movements restricted [5]. Mary Beth Markey, President of the International Campaign for Tibet said “Two weeks after the event, this admission by the Chinese authorities that ‘by accident’ they killed a Tibetan who was ‘attacking’ police is simply not a tenable account of events,” “Whatever the truth of the situation, it cannot be denied that drafting in police armed with ‘anti-riot shotguns’ and imposing a blackout on information from the area once again underlines the vulnerability of the Tibetan people, and the lack of accountability from the Chinese authorities both to the Tibetan people themselves and to the international community.”[5]  The different death tolls could not be reconciled and independently confirmed [2]  [6]. In a telephone interview an official of the Palyul county government said that negotiations with the Tibetan protesters are ongoing: “Regarding that incident, some compromises have been made and negotiations are being conducted,” “We are aware that the mining activities are negatively impacting the natural environment. The Chinese government is taking action to investigate the mining activities [3].  Tibet, whose Chinese name Xizang means “Western Depository,” is one of China’s largest national sources of gold and precious metals and the Chinese authorities started surveying and mining Tibet in the 1950s. [3] According to “Tibet Outside the TAR” there has been an expansion of mining activities in recent years following an emphasis on exploitation of minerals in the area by the prefectural authorities in the early 1980s, and official sources described Payul’s Changtai Gold Mine as one of the prefecture’s “backbone enterprises”. Moreover there’s a policy which encourages Chinese immigrant miners as much as local Tibetans in order to develop the rural town and village organization. The mining industry expanded considerably during economic reforms of the 1980s and 1990s but generally remained small-scale. Poor governance and control over mining have in some cases exacerbated its environmental impact as the interests of local people have been subordinated to those of officials and the state [5]. Currently ( 2016) China’s gold miners plan to extend the biggest buying spree in four years as the nation seeks greater clout in the global bullion industry. Pan Guocheng, chief executive officer of China Hanking, in an interview in Hong Kong said: “We are very aggressively and actively looking for good, high-quality gold assets which are going to add additional value to our existing portfolio,” “We want to establish our presence in the Australian capital market and get the investor community to support more acquisitions.” [7]

Basic Data
Name of conflict:Gold mining site in Palyul county, TAP, Sichuan, China
State or province: Palyul (Chinese: Baiyu) County, Karze (Chinese: Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan Province
Location of conflict:Sharchu Gyashoe village
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Mineral processing
Mineral ore exploration
Specific commodities:Gold
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Kartin, a Shanghai-based mining company, has been operating gold mines in the area for nearly 20 years, but enlarged to large-scale capacity in August 2006. Over the past four years, the company has brought in increasing quantities of heavy machinery and equipment to expand its operations.The majority of the company’s employees are from Shanghai.[3] [5]

Type of populationRural
Start of the conflict:13/08/2010
Company names or state enterprises: Kartin Company from China
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:Neighbours/citizens/communities
Religious groups
Forms of mobilization:Official complaint letters and petitions
Street protest/marches
The protesters picketed in front of the local government office for three days [1]
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Other Environmental impacts, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Floods (river, coastal, mudflow)
Potential: Soil contamination, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Other Environmental impactsChinese overcrowded population had severely degraded the fertility of the farmland, and adversely affected the local grassland habitat; Nearby Drukchu (in Chinese, Zhouqu) county in Gansu province and Gyegudo (in Chinese, Yushu) county in Qinghai province, both had experienced severe earthquakes and mudslides that some Tibetans in the area, believed were partially caused by mining and land excavation. [3]
Health ImpactsPotential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Deaths
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures
Potential: Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Other socio-economic impactsMining operations in Tibetan regions of China have led to frequent standoffs with Tibetans who accuse Chinese firms of disrupting sites of spiritual significance and polluting the environment as they extract local wealth.[3]
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Deaths, Assassinations, Murders
Violent targeting of activists
The protest was repressed in a very violent way and the accident was known by the press two weeks later and in the papers there were discordance about what really happened and how many persons were killed exactly.
Development of alternatives:The protest's leader asked to local authorities a compensation for the local community because environmental mining damages by the Kartin Company, [1] [5].
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The protest was repressed in a very violent way and the accident was known by the press two weeks later and in the papers there were discordance about what really happened and how many persons were killed exactly. However, in the Palyul county there's deep awareness about environmental and political issue and it is known for its strong Tibetan identity and it has been at the center of dissent for years.
Sources & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Tibetan Review, 4 killed, 30 injured in firing on anti-mining petitioners, Academic Journal, The Monthly Magazine on all Aspects of Tibet; October 2010, Vol. 45 Issue 10, p4
[click to view]

Rukor-admin, Copper and gold mining in Tibet, Copper and gold mining in Tibet, October 11, 2011
[click to view]

[5]International Campaign For Tibet, Chinese government admits to fatal shooting of Tibetan in mining protest, Chinese government admits to fatal shooting of Tibetan in mining protest, AUGUST 31, 2010
[click to view]

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

Asianews, In one year environmental accidents double in China, July 28, 2010
[click to view]

[3]Radio Free Asia, Police Fire on Mine Protesters, August 8, 2010
[click to view]

[1]Tibet society, Four Tibetans killed by police during mining protest, 1 September 2010
[click to view]

[2], China media: Police accidentally killed Tibetan, August 30, 2010
[click to view]

[4] Asianews, Police fire on Tibetans protesting against mine, 08/30/2010
[click to view]

[7]Bloomberg News,China's Gold Miners Come of Age to Scour Globe for Acquisitions, with assistance by Wenwen Zhang, and Martin RitchieApril 21, 2016
[click to view]

[6]Original reporting by RFA's Tibetan service, Translated by Karma Dorjee, Written in English by Joshua Lipes.
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Myriam Bartolucci, EJAtlas internship researcher, [email protected]
Last update27/02/2018
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