THE CLOSURE of Mineral Resources’ Yilgarn iron ore hub will have a major impact on Southern Ports’ Esperance operation.

Mineral Resources managing director Chris Ellison announced on 20 June that its Yilgarn operations were not financially viable beyond the end of 2024 and would cease shipments by December.

Southern Ports chief executive officer Keith Wilks said they were extremely disappointed to hear of the Mineral Resources’ announcement.

“We acknowledge the impact this will have on the Goldfields-Esperance region and our thoughts are with all of those directly affected,” Mr Wilks said.  

“While we don’t yet know the full effect for us, given Mineral Resources is a major customer for Southern Ports and the Port of Esperance, it is reasonable to assume this will have a significant impact on our operations.

“We will be working over the coming weeks with our staff and others to assess the situation more fully and put in place a plan to take us forward.”

A media release from Mineral Resources said the Yilgarn Hub operations will ramp down in a staged approach over the next six months, with up to four million wet metric tonnes expected to be shipped by the end of the calendar year. Mining operations will then transition into care and maintenance from early 2025.

Mr Ellison said by the end of 2024, MinRes will have operated Koolyanobbing for six and a half years, exported almost 45 million tonnes via the Port of Esperance and spent $4.2 billion running its Yilgarn operations, exceeding the company’s commitments.

Approximately 1000 employees will be impacted by the change, with MinRes redeploying as many people as possible across the company’s other operations, including the ramp up of the Onslow Iron project.

Managing Director Chris Ellison said the decision aligns with the company’s strategy to transition its iron ore business to low-cost, long-life operations.

“This prudent and difficult decision was not taken lightly and follows years of investment to extend the life of our operations in the Yilgarn,” Mr Ellison said.

“With our investment across Western Australia, we have almost 800 vacancies and will redeploy as many of our people as possible to other MinRes operations, including to our low-cost, long-life Onslow Iron project.”

“MinRes has been an owner-operator in the Yilgarn since our maiden shipment from Carina in 2011. In 2018, the company saved hundreds of Western Australian jobs at the Koolyanobbing iron ore mine with the support of the State Government.”

The WA mining giant received a five-year royalty holiday in 2028 from the state government to keep the iron ore hub operating, a commitment that had now been completed with Mineral Resources having paid $77 million in royalties since February 2023.

“I want to thank everyone whose hard work and dedication over the past 13 years made this challenging operation a great success,” Mr Ellison said.