Authorities in the Solomon Islands province of Isabel say a recent visit by Japanese mining prospectors marks increasing interest from overseas investors.
The provincial executive is asking local people whether they'll allow Sumitomo to explore for nickel and cobalt on their land.
The minister of mines and company representatives have already talked to landowners at two sites in Isabel province ahead of a formal consultation process.
Deputy provincial premier, Mathias Simata, says the proposed project is at an early stage - but the visit is symptomatic of rising business interest in the region.
"There are a lot of investors coming in the province. Certainly there is an increase of interested international investors coming in the province, for business undertakings."
Mr Simata says the Solomons government has given Sumitomo a letter of intent, and if landowners approve the idea, the national and provincial governments will issue business licences.