MinRes ceases Yilgarn iron ore shipments, impacts Esperance


MinRes will halt Yilgarn Hub iron ore shipments by 31 December 2024 due to limited mine life and high development costs, impacting the Port of Esperance.

MinRes ceases Yilgarn iron ore shipments, impacts Esperance
Operations in Yilgarn hub © Mineral Resources

Mineral Resources (MinRes) has provided an update on its Yilgarn iron ore operations following the completion of a comprehensive viability assessment.

The assessment confirmed continuity of the Yilgarn operations is not financially viable beyond the end of the 2024 calendar year. As a result, MinRes will cease Yilgarn Hub iron ore shipments by 31 December 2024.

This outcome has been influenced by several factors, including the limited remaining mine life across five operating mines in the Yilgarn and the significant capital cost and lead time required to develop new resources to ensure continuity of supply.

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 in early 2025.

Approximately 1,000 employees will be impacted by this 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,” 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.”

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 AU$4.2 billion running its Yilgarn operations, exceeding the company’s commitments.

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

While ramping down operations, MinRes will consider future options for its Yilgarn assets, including rehabilitation or disposal. Exploration drilling and environmental studies focused on hematite and magnetite targets will continue into the calendar year 2025.

Disappointment in Esperance

The Southern Ports CEO Keith Wilks has expressed disappointment after the MinRes’ decision, saying losing the major customer will wipe out more than half of the trade through the Port of Esperance.

“There’s no doubt that this will have a major effect on the Esperance community and the wider region which, like our port, have enjoyed a strong connection to iron ore for decades. Given the recentness of the announcement, we are still determining the full effect on our business. We’ll be working over the coming period to assess the situation more fully, however, given Mineral Resources is a major customer for Southern Ports and Port of Esperance it is reasonable to assume this will have a significant impact on our operations. Our staff are our immediate priority, and we will be working over the coming period to put a plan in place to take us forward,” Wilks said.

Mineral Resources says it will retain a presence at the Port of Esperance with its Mt Marion and Bald Hill lithium mines exporting through the town, ABC reported.