Bucharest: Hundreds of Romanian riot police forcibly removed dozens of shale gas protesters from their makeshift camp early on Monday, clearing the way for Chevron to resume controversial exploration activities in the impoverished region.
Some 100 residents from the Pungesti village had been camping out for more than six weeks in a privately-owned field next to the site where the US energy giant plans to drill its first exploration well.
Riot police armed with batons swooped in on the site, whose owner had not objected to the camp, around 3am, witnesses said.
"They beat us and dragged us away," one of the villagers, Elena Privac, 36, said.
"They forced us out of the camp we had set up and blocked the road, not even school buses are allowed to pass," she added.
Two people were injured and transported to the hospital and seven more have been taken to the police station for "disturbing public order", police spokeswoman Irina Dragan said.
Journalists were stopped from going near the scene. An AFP journalist said around 1,000 police were involved in the operation, while police put the number at 300.
Dragan said that the police "did not use force" but said "scuffles" broke out when the villagers tried to block the road and said police were temporarily restricting access to the "sensitive" area.
She did not say why the police removed protesters from private land when not asked to do so by the owner.
Following the raid, Chevron announced that it was resuming its operations in the area, activities it had suspended after protests first erupted in October.
In a statement, the company said it "will undertake only exploration activities with conventional technologies."
"Our priority is to conduct these activities in a safe and environmentally responsible manner consistent with the permits under which we operate", the statement said.
Pungesti is one of three villages in Romania's impoverished northeast, along with the country's Black Sea coast, where Chevron has permits to explore for shale gas.
Villagers are afraid of the environmental and health impact of the highly controversial drilling method used to unlock shale gas, called hydraulic fracturing or "fracking".
The technique consists of pumping water and chemicals at high pressure into deep rock formations to free oil and gas, with environmentalists warning the process may contaminate ground water and even cause small earthquakes.