Colas in South America

Colas in South America

Colas is increasingly active west of the Andes. In Chile, where Colas Rail has been present since 2013, the development of the metro and rail network offers opportunities over the next 20 years, while the road business is growing thanks to a recent acquisition. Meanwhile, in Peru, Colas is contributing to the construction of mining infrastructures. Analysis.

Extract of Routes 43


Colas in South America

A REGION WITH HIGH POTENTIAL. The Perumin mining convention, held every two years since 1943, brings together Peru’s leading players from the sector. At this year’s event, held in September, all the talk was about one exceptional project: Quellaveco. Mining operator Anglo American has invested more than 3 billion dollars in a copper mine - with an operational potential of 40 years - at this site, located 1,200 km south of Lima. Colas is already actively involved in the project via Colvias, a company recently created with a view to developing road activities in Peru. “Colvias teams specialize in mining infrastructures”, explains Jean-Baptiste Guénet, Colas’ South America Manager. “Employees at the Quellaveco site are working at an altitude of close to 4,000 meters, in an arid environment and with high UV levels. So individual protection and safety are major considerations.”

Mining activities also herald promising growth opportunities for Colas in Peru, but also in Chile. Mining is a fast-growing sector in Chile, where the Group has already been present for eight years via Dust-A-Side, a company specializing in dust control. And further opportunities abound in the region. Last summer, for example, Colas acquired Asfalcura, a company specializing in road construction, with a particular focus on asphalt mix production and application. The Group’s core business has thus been reinforced. “Colas targets economically mature South American countries, concentrating on markets where competition is healthy and transparent”, underlines Jean-Baptiste Guénet.

FROM THE SUMMITS OF THE ANDES TO THE SANTIAGO METRO. Colas’ first foray into South America was in Venezuela. Colas Rail’s adventure in the rail sector, initiated thirty years ago, is backed by solid references – notably the construction and extension of the metro network in Caracas (four lines) and in Los Teques (two lines). However, the current economic and political turmoil in the country limits opportunities at present. Despite this, the rail sector remains dynamic on the continent, driven, once again, by Chile. “We’re going to start extension work on line 2 of the Santiago metro. Alongside EFE [Empresa de los Ferrocarriles del Estado, the national rail operator], we’re going to supply and install 150 sets of points for the main network, for lines already in service”, announces Régis Roche, Colas Rail’s South America Manager.

These large-scale projects require dedicated logistics. “We’re bringing over machines used on a major project in Morocco, as well as motorized electric rail-mounted gantry cranes. These gantries, designed to lift and transport equipment, are capable of advancing automatically, saving valuable time. The EFE project is the first in Chile to make use of them”, explains Luc Rodriguez, Colas Rail’s Sales Manager for South America. And it doesn’t finish there: in Santiago, plans have already been drawn up to construct metro lines 7, 8 and 9. The first calls for bids will be launched in 2020 for commissioning in 2025. “There are currently very few countries building three metro lines in the space of just five years”, underlines Régis Roche. There are also a number of private initiatives to create a high-speed rail link between Santiago and Valparaíso, a new line out to Santiago airport, etc. All potential opportunities for Colas Rail, in a country “that is one of the most organized, with an efficient network and considerable needs, and where projects are delivered on time”, concludes Luc Rodriguez.


At the Quellaveco mining site, in Peru, safety and societal responsibility are key considerations for Colvias’ teams working on the road infrastructure. Mining company Anglo American, which is building what will eventually be one of the world’s biggest copper mines, hires locally and requires its workforce to comply with strictest QHSE standards.


Executed within the framework of a 20-year design, construction and maintenance contract secured in 2016, new metro lines 3 and 6 reinforce the underground network, which serves most districts throughout Santiago in Chile. At its peak, more than 1,000 employees have been mobilized for the project.