BEIJING -- Geologists have discovered a large gold mine in the western part of the region of Xinjiang, a vast area that Chinese leaders are exploiting for its natural resources, according to a report by Xinhua, the state news agency.
The mine is in the Ili Valley, near the Kazakh border, and is believed to have gold reserves of at least 53 tons, which is worth about $3.2 billion, according to the report, which was published Tuesday.
The mine is the largest such resource found in the western area of the Tianshan Mountains, a snow-capped range that runs through the heart of Xinjiang, Xinhua reported, citing Zeng Xiaogang, head of Xinjiang's geology and mineral resources bureau.
Xinjiang, in northwest China, encompasses one-sixth of the entire country. It is home to the Uighur ethnic group, many of whose members are resentful of policies imposed by the ethnic Han, the dominant group in China. The exploitation by Han-run companies of natural resources in Xinjiang, especially oil, gas and minerals, contributes to the tensions.
Meisheng Group from Hainan Province has already invested about $25 million in the gold mine project, Xinhua reported. The group and the geology bureau took five years to find the mine, the report said, and operations there are expected to start in 2015, with production capacity is expected to reach three tons annually. The mine was also said to have 31,200 tons of copper.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.