November 12, 2012 - 16:43 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - The Afghan government has shortlisted companies from Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey for a major oil and gas exploration project, a step in the country's quest to reap revenues from its vast untapped mineral and energy resources, The Associated Press reports.
Minister of Mines Wahidullah Shahrani said Monday, Nov 12, that bids from Dubai's Dragon Oil, Kuwait Energy, and the Turkish Petroleum Corp. have been selected for the tender involving exploration rights in the Tajik Basin in northern Afghanistan.
The basin's oil reserves are estimated at more than 1 billion barrels.
The government said in a statement that the bids will be considered in a "thorough, transparent, and fair bidding process until the announcement of the results of the evaluation process," adding that the contract will be signed in March. The statement said 20 international companies had expressed interest in the project and that eight were judged eligible, including Texas-based Exxon Mobil.
The Tajik Basin is located between the northern cities of Mazar-i-Sharif and Kunduz. The tender includes the six blocks known to contain hydrocarbon reserves. The blocks may be awarded to a single bidder or to multiple bidders, the ministry said.
Afghanistan's mineral wealth — estimated at up to $3 trillion dollars — has been detailed in several surveys, the most extensive of which were conducted by the Soviets in the 1970s. Mining companies, both Afghan and foreign, have already shown interest, notably in its copper, iron and oil. Also highly sought are so-called rare earth elements, used in cell phones, hybrid car batteries, wind turbines and by the defense industries.
But most mineral riches are scattered throughout the country, including in the war-wracked southern and eastern areas, AP says.