The Bougainville government has been in discussions with Bougainville Copper Limited about a possible re-opening of the Panguna mine.
The autonomous Papua New Guinea region is set to hold a referendum on independence by 2020 but it has to have a viable economy before Port Moresby will agree to this.
The Bougainville president John Momis says returning to mining is the fastest way to achieve this viability and that is why they are talking with BCL, which operated Panguna before it was shut down by the civil war.
He says they are more than willing to talk with other parties but will give BCL first right of refusal.
"We are ready to engage with Bougainville Copper if they so wish, if they want to come back, and we are also ready for other arrangements if other partners are interested."
Mr Momis says a key thought in having BCL back in Panguna is the company would be required to clean up the environmental mess left by its earlier operation at the mine.