Japan's Marubeni has agreed to sell Vinacomin, Vietnam's top coal mining group, between 1 million and 2 million tonnes of Australian or Indonesian coal a year.
Marubeni's senior managing executive officer, Mamoru Sekiyama, agreed this during a visit to Vinacomin's office in Hanoi, the Vietnamese group said in a statement posted on its website (www.vinacomin.com.vn).
It gave no date for the start of the arrangement and Marubeni officials in Hanoi could not immediately be reached for comment.
Coal will take over from hydro power as the leading fuel for new electricity generation in Vietnam, so far a net coal exporter, in the next five years, state utility Vietnam Electricity has said.
Vietnam plans to build a number of power plants, including coal-fired thermal plants, in coming years as it grapples with rising power demand and has to buy electricity from southern China as part of measures to avoid outages.
Vinacomin, or the Vietnam National Coal, Mineral Industries Holding Corp Ltd, has forecast its coal output this year would be 44 million tonnes, unchanged from 2010.
In June it received 9,570 tonnes of its first thermal coal shipment from Indonesia, opening up a new supply source, a Vinacomin official said.
Vietnam has also imported coal from Australia and has been looking to buy from Russia.
Vinacomin is forecasting an increase in its annual coal output to 55 million tonnes in 2015 and would need $1 billion for investment, Chief Executive Le Minh Chuan was quoted in the statement as telling the Japanese visitors on Thursday.
French bank BNP Paribas and Bank of China have agreed a syndicated loan worth $275 million for Vinacomin, a state-run newspaper reported in early April.
In January Vinacomin said it planned to issue international bonds worth $500 million this year to fund major projects, after delaying a bond sale in 2010 due to unfavourable conditions.