Afghanistan has awarded its first oil development contract amid cautious optimism that the strife-ridden country may yet attract foreign investment to develop its resources sector.
Under an initial six-month deal to restart crude production from the Angot field, which straddles Afghanistan's border with Tajikistan, Afghan mines ministry employees will operate several wells that are to be uncapped in coming days. Ghazanfar Neft Gas, a local family-run firm that owns petrol stations in Afghanistan, will collect and market the crude.
If the arrangement is successful, Kabul plans to auction a long-term production-sharing contract for crude output at Angot and four other developed but idle oilfields in northern Afghanistan's section of the Amu Darya Basin of Central Asia.
"This is just the beginning, but the potential is great," Waheedullah Shahrani, the Afghan mines minister, told the Washington Post.
Angot would initially pump only 800 barrels per day, yielding Kabul a revenue share of about $12 million (Dh44m) per year. Nevertheless, US officials who helped Afghanistan's government craft its plan to develop the country's mineral and agricultural resources, estimate the Amu Darya concession could eventually generate as much as US$50 million per year in government revenue.
The region containing the oilfields is relatively peaceful, far removed from Taliban strongholds in southern Afghanistan.