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The Agua Negra binational tunnel between Argentina's San Juan province and Chile's Coquimbo region (IV) will be put out to tender next February 8, state news service Télam reported.
The works will be financed with a loan from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and will include two one-way tunnels measuring 13.9km in length. The entrances of the Chilean and Argentine sides of the tunnel will be at 3,600 and 4,100 meters above sea level, respectively.
The project has been estimated to cost US$1.2bn and the IDB loan is for US$1.5bn. Works are expected to begin in 2018 and are expected to take nine years.
The tunnel is the main component of the bioceanic corridor that will connect the center of Argentina to Chile's Coquimbo port on the Pacific Ocean and Porto Alegre in Brazil on the Atlantic Ocean.
The figures for the project were reported by San Juan province's planning and infrastructure minister, Julio César Ortiz Andino, at the Argentine engineering center (CAI) in capital Buenos Aires.
"The excavation of the trans-Andean tunnel will be carried out in the traditional manner with explosives and it will create jobs for between 4,000 and 5,000 people. We have manpower available from mining in both San Juan and in Chile," Andino said.
"The tunnel will be available for vehicle access and will allow time savings of three hours" for the transport of cargo and people, said the minister, adding that it will be "open all year" despite the harsh climatic conditions in the Andes during the winter season.
The Aguas Negra tunnel is one of several efforts being developed to integrate Chile and Argentina, as well as form better connections between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Others include the Las Leñas corridor and the Aconcagua bioceanic corridor.