Mineral Resources to shut Yilgarn iron ore hub

Koolyanobbing, where ore is processed prior to railing to the Port of Esperance. (Image courtesy of Mineral Resources.)

Australia’s Mineral Resources (ASX: MIN) will shut down its Yilgarn iron ore hub in Western Australia by the end of the year in a move that will affect about 1,000 workers.

The decision was triggered by a combination of factors, including the limited remaining life across the five operating mines that make up the hub, and the significant capital cost and lead time required to develop new resources to ensure continuity of supply, the company said.

MinRes, led by billionaire founder Chris Ellison, noted it would attempt to reassign as many employees as possible to its other iron ore and lithium mines in WA, as well as to its mining service business.

“This prudent but 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.”

Studying options

As it ramps down operations, MinRes will explore future options for its Yilgarn assets, comprising 28 trucks and 25 pieces of ancillary gear. The alternatives to be studied include potential rehabilitation or disposal. 

The company said exploration drilling and environmental studies targeting hematite and magnetite will continue through 2025.

MinRes, which also mines lithium, has operated in the region since 2011. In 2018, with support from the Western Aaustralia Government, it stepped in to absorb hundreds of workers from Koolyanobbing, who were set to lose their jobs after US-based Cliffs Natural Resources sold its international assets.

Yilgarn was at one point one of Australia’s largest iron ore producing assets not owned by heavyweights BHP (ASX: BHP), Rio Tinto (ASX: RIO) or Fortescue Metals (ASX: FMG).