South Korea’s Dong Ah Construction is set to complete 1.4km long river diversion tunnels on Malaysia’s Bakun hydro-electric dam project up to three months ahead of schedule.

The contractor is due to finish the tunnels in central Sarawak by April 2001. But a senior Dong Ah engineer said the scheme is on course to end by January 2001.

Project manager Jung Hyun-ik said: "We were given until April to complete the three tunnels but we are obviously way ahead of schedule."

Dong Ah has already broken through on two of the three tunnels and is close to breaking through on the third.

Once all the 12m dia tunnels have holed through Dong Ah will go back and line them with concrete.

The tunnels will divert water from the Batang Balui River to allow construction of the 235m high Bakun dam to go-ahead. Clients are the Malaysian electricity company Tenaga Nasional Bhd and the Sarawak Electricity Supply Corporation.

Work on the tunnel project restarted last October when Dong Ah signed a US$52.6M contract to complete the remaining 25% of tunnel works. This followed an 11 month shutdown caused by the Asian economic crisis which also led to the withdrawal from the project of the original turnkey contractor, Ekran Bhd.