Chinese firms put bid in for Argentina and Chile tunnel construction

Global Business

The bidding process to begin work on one of South America’s largest public works project is due to close at the end of this month.

CGTN’s Joel Richards reports.  

In a joint project between Argentina and Chile, a 14-kilometer tunnel will be built through the Andes Mountains under the Agua Negra pass.

President of passenger transport company PAP transport in San Juan Juan Igualada said that an altitude of nearly 5,000 meters, crossing the Agua Negra pass is slow.

Winter temperatures also mean the pass closes for several months, creating logistical problems for companies like his.

“It is hard to plan an economy with a  route that is closed so much,” Igualada said. He added that the tunnel should reduce travel time from this province to Chile by nearly half, benefitting the  business and tourism sectors.

Discussions in this bi-national project have been under way since 2003 and it could be another decade until construction is completed. But it is not only Argentina and Chile who will benefit from the tunnel at Agua Negra.

Provincial governor Segio Uñac says that with $1.5 billion in funding from the Inter -American Development Bank, this project is one of the largest public works in South America.

“We are building a future for the center of our country and the neighboring countries too,” Uñac said. “Uruguay, the south of Brazil and Paraguay can also use this bi-oceanic corridor and that way access the growing Asian market with their products.”

The bidding process is due to end in late May. The San Juan infrastructure minister, Julio Ortiz Andino, said Chinese companies are likely to have a key role in construction.

“China is the country that has the most experience in tunnels of any type, but in particular tunnels at altitude. They have the Himalaya, we have the Andes,” Andino said. 

This tunnel may still be nearly 10 years away from completion, but the expectation here is that the benefits for this region will be long- term.