The discovery of the basin between northern Balkh and Shiberghan provinces was made after a survey conducted by Afghan and international geologists, according to Jawad Omar, a spokesman for the ministry of mines.
He said: “I do not know its price in the market. But the initial survey says there are 1.8bn barrels of oil and I think there will be more.”
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 (£1.9 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. But ravaged by three decades of foreign interventions and civil war, the central government now faces the Taliban insurgency and relies on foreign forces for control of many parts of the vast Central Asian country.
The US Department of Defence estimated earlier this year that Afghanistan’s mineral resources could top $1 trillion. Omar said an earlier plan for the tender of a 1.6bn barrel Afghan-Tajik oil block in early 2011 was still on track.