KABUL, Aug. 15, 2010 (Reuters) — Afghanistan said on Sunday it had discovered an oilfield with an estimated 1.8 billion barrels in the north of the war-ravaged country, where U.S. and other foreign forces are trying to tame a Taliban-led insurgency.
The discovery of the basin between northern Balkh and Shiberghan provinces was made after a survey conducted by Afghan and international geologists, said Jawad Omar, a spokesman for the ministry of mines.
"I do not know its price in the market. But the initial survey says there are 1.8 billion barrels of oil and I think there will be more than what it is estimated," he told Reuters.
Various estimates of Afghanistan's hidden wealth have been made in recent years, but the challenge of exploiting the resources in a country at war and with little mining infrastructure is daunting for most investors.
Omar gave no more details on how the estimates were made but said the country will offer the reserves for development along with other minerals in the coming months.
Afghanistan hopes that untapped mineral deposits valued at $3 trillion could help reduce the need to rely on Western cash for bankrolling its impoverished economy and for its soldiers to maintain security when foreign troops draw down numbers.