FREETOWN, Sierra Leone (AP) — Sierra Leone's government says Russia's Lukoil has completed its first exploration well off the coast of the West African nation, confirming the presence of "high-quality oil."

In a statement issued late Monday, the government congratulated Lukoil and said a full appraisal of the amount of potential oil would be completed by the end of the year.

Lukoil could not immediately be reached to confirm the government's statement.

The company acquired a 49 percent stake in the offshore block where the well is located in June 2011. The block is located on a basin where multiple sizable oil fields have recently been discovered.

Lukoil also owns a 25 percent stake in a separate nearby oil block. Sierra Leone officials have said they want the country to begin producing oil by 2017.