Iraq’s cabinet has authorised contracts with foreign firms to develop four oilfields, the government announced today.

“The cabinet has ratified four oilfields: Majnoon, Gharaf and, in Nineveh province, Qayara and al-Najmah,” said government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh, reports Reuters.

Last month, the Iraqi Oil Ministry initialled service contracts with seven foreign consortia to develop fields including supergiant Majnoon, which was awarded to Shell and Malaysia’s Petronas in December’s energy auction.

The firms must now sign final deals before they can begin work.

Europe’s largest oil company, Royal Dutch Shell and Petronas won the rights to Majnoon, a major field near the southern oil hub of Basra. Majnoon’s reserves of 12.6 billion barrels make it one of the world’s largest untapped fields.