FOREPOLING through the Colombian Andes
“4G”, or Fourth Generation, typically refers to a mobile network. In Colombia, it’s also an abbreviation for the largest and most ambitious road infrastructure program in Latin America.
Colombia’s 4G program involves 7,000 kilometres of roadway – a more than $ 50 billion investment divided into more than 40 projects. Part of a master plan to place Colombia at the forefront of Latin American economies, its aim is to step up regional development and promote foreign trade by reducing transport times across the country.
4G has marked a massive boost for the construction industry in Colombia, a country traversed by no less than three branches of the Andes. In addition to 1,400 km of four-lane highways, 4G includes 141 tunnels (125 km in length) and as many as 1,300 viaducts (146 km in length).
One of the 4G projects, called “Autopista Conexión Pacífico 1”, is the construction of a highway between Medellin, Colombia’s second largest city, and Bolombolo, in central northwestern Colombia. It includes two tunnels, Sinifaná and Amagá.
Partnering in a competitive market
Sinifaná, consisting of two parallel tunnels, 1,6 km each with a cross-section of 100 m², is contracted by the Spanish-owned OSSA. They are drilling with Robit tools, supplied by SESCO, Robit’s exclusive dealer of tunneling tools in Colombia. Through SESCO, Robit entered the Colombian market three years ago.
“Entering Colombia was a real challenge since the prices were very depressed. We are by no means the cheapest in the market, but thanks to the durability and fast performance of our tools, we have been able to demonstrate that Robit is the most economical cost-per-meter choice”, says José Cisneros, Sales Director for Robit SAC.
In addition to providing tools, Robit consults the main designers in the projects, and provides training to drillers to ensure optimal use of the various tools. In forepoling, the Robit system can offer key advantages for the driller. It’s easy to install, couplings between sections are very fast to make, and the durability helps minimize downtime.
“We have seen performance that has not been reached in this country before: 13,000 m for rods, 25,000 m for couplings, 24,000 m for shanks, to name a few. Add to that the superior penetration rate of our drill bits, and our client has been able to reduce execution times up to 40%”, says a pleased José.
The Sinifaná tunnel is expected to be completed in September 2019, and the Amagá tunnel two years later. Once finished, the Pacífico 1 highway will cut the travel time from Medellin to Bolombolo in half.
Picture: The Cauca river crosses numerous towns in the Department of Antioquia, including Bolombolo.