SOUTHERN Ports has secured export deals for iron ore and spodumene out of the Port of Esperance.

The port authority has entered a three-year iron-ore export contract with Western Australian mining services company Mineral Resources (MRL).

It also secured a five-year contract MRL subsidiary Process Minerals International to export spodumene from its hard rock lithium mines at Mount Marion.

The Process Minerals contract also has an optional five-year extension.

Southern Ports said the agreements also open the port’s iron ore infrastructure to junior exporters, such as the local, independent mining company Juno Minerals.

Juno Minerals was able to sign a non-binding memorandum of understanding with the port to support potential iron ore trade in the future.

Port of Esperance exported more than 7.6 million tonnes of iron ore in the 2023 financial year. It has exported almost 37 million tonnes of the commodity since 2018.

Spodumene (lithium) exports through Esperance increased by almost 350% in the same period. Southern Ports said the port exported more than 900,000 tonnes of spodumene over the past year.

“This is a welcome outcome for Southern Ports and the Esperance community,” Southern Ports CEO Keith Wilks said.

He said the iron ore trade underpins regional prosperity in Esperance, and that the new deals would create more regional jobs.

“Not only will the deals extend MRL iron ore exports through to 2026, but also create the potential for new iron ore trade with junior exporters as the Port of Esperance transitions to future export commodities,” he said.

“With some of the richest deposits of critical minerals in the country, it’s also pleasing that we are able to position the region for trade growth in spodumene to support the global transition to clean energy.”