Japan’s Nittetsu Mining and Sojitz have received authorisation from Laos to explore for copper on the back of increasing demand.

This is the first time that Japanese companies have been given approval to explore for copper in Laos, Bloomberg reports.

Both companies will conduct exploration work in the Moune district close to the Thai border, about 100km west of the capital Vientiane.

Sojitz said that copper is an important metal that is used in consumer durable goods and infrastructure and demand is expected from emerging markets, the news service said.

Japan, which is the second largest importer of copper ore after China, annually imports 1.3 million metric tonnes of copper in ore and depends on South American output for 60% of its international purchases.

Sojitz said that Laos contains over six million tonnes of ore reserves, Bloomberg reports.