It was unclear who carried out the attack near the village of Mukera in South Kivu province. Relations are already tense between Chinese mining companies and local authorities, who say some companies operate illegally without licenses.
“An armed group exchanged fire with the police. Five Chinese nationals were kidnapped,” said Major Dieudonne Kasereka, a spokeswoman for the army in the region.
A spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Congo did not respond to a request for comment. The name of the mine site was not given.
In August, the governor of South Kivu, Theo Kasi, suspended the operations of six small Chinese companies and ordered all local and foreign personnel to leave the sites. Protests broke out in some areas after businesses did not immediately shut down, local media reported.
Meanwhile, President Felix Tshisekedi is reviewing a $ 6 billion “mineral infrastructure” deal with Chinese investors signed under former President Joseph Kabila.
He previously said that some mining contracts could be revised due to concerns that they are not sufficiently benefiting the Congo, which is the world’s largest cobalt producer and Africa’s top copper miner.
Even without disputes over contracts, the restless eastern Congo is a difficult place to operate. Various militias fight to control the land and natural resources. In recent weeks, the army has clashed with the M23 rebel group a few hundred miles north of this weekend’s attack, near the Ugandan border, forcing thousands to flee.
On Saturday, gunmen killed a Virunga National Park ranger, the park said. The M23 is likely to blame, he said.