Chinese, Europeans interested in $1.5 billion Chile-Argentina tunnel

SANTIAGO – Chinese and European firms have formally expressed interest in building a landmark US$1.5 billion tunnel under the Andes mountains to connect Argentina and Chile.

Chinese companies Power China and the Chinese Communications Construction Company, Spain’s OHL and FCC, and Italy’s Astaldi and Salini Impregilo are among the interested parties, according to Chile’s minister of public works Alberto Undurraga.

China Power is one of the country’s biggest companies, with involvement on major infrastructure projects, both abroad and at home, such as the Three Gorges Dam.

The planned Agua Negra tunnel would be over 13km in length and would connect Chile’s Coquimbo region with the Argentine province of San Juan, both mining regions. The tunnel would be able to operate year round, unlike existing cross-border roads that pass over the Andes and often must close during winter snowstorms.

Both Chile and Argentina are revamping their infrastructure, drawing interest from Asian companies for the first time. Infrastructure in the area has traditionally been dominated by Spanish and Italian companies.

Building the tunnel would be an ambitious and complex project that would likely take more than 10 years to complete, said Argentina’s Transport Planning Secretary German Bussi.

The tender for the project is due to start in September or October.