Premier Mark McGowan said he sensed “a lot of relief” among staff during a visit to Esperance Port on Tuesday, July 17, the first since the sale of Cleveland-Cliffs’ Koolyanobbing mining operation.
Mr McGowan and Agricultural Region MLC Laurie Graham met with Southern Ports Authority acting chief executive officer Alan Byers and staff just over a month after Cleveland-Cliffs announced that an agreement had been reached with Mineral Resources Limited for the sale of their Koolyanobbing mine.
The sale, supported by the state government, safeguarded regional jobs, including those of employees at Esperance Port.
The state government had been working with Mineral Resources to acquire Cleveland-Cliffs’ fixed infrastructure assets at the Esperance Port and to ensure a positive outcome for the people of Esperance.
With iron ore export out of Esperance having dropped 27 per cent in the last financial year, Mr McGowan said although tonnage would be reduced, spare capacity at the port would be made available for other potential port users.
“Unfortunately the tonnage going through the port will be reduced and that’s because of the size of the mine and the capacity that the successful miner had,” he said.
“It will be reduced tonnage but it will mean that for the next five to six years the iron ore mining will continue.
“I explained that all very openly and honestly to the workforce – we’ll keep the port going and what we’ve successfully done is ensure that the spare capacity is available for other users.
“That means that there are ongoing opportunities in the long term for the town and for the workforce and ensures that, whilst Mineral Resources continues to operate, there will still be capacity available to other operators.”
Mr McGowan said creating and preserving jobs across regional WA was a priority for the state government and they would continue to work closely with Mineral Resources.
“I explained the efforts that the government went to – this has been an enormous exercise to keep those [port] jobs here in Esperance,” he said.
“Hundreds of jobs have been preserved that would have otherwise been lost and that’s good for Esperance, it’s good for those people and it’s good for the whole region.
“Largely, I got the feeling that there was a lot of relief [among port staff] that a lot of people’s jobs will be preserved.
“The state government continues to work closely with Mineral Resources Limited to ensure economic activity continues in the region.
“Creating jobs across regional WA is a big priority of my government, and the acquisition of the Koolyanobbing iron ore operation by Mineral Resources will ensure that employment opportunities remain in the region.”
It is understood the state government had committed to time limited royalty relief for Cliffs-related port throughput and reduced charges in a bid to guarantee continued operations and ensure local jobs remained protected.
Following the release of the end-of-financial-year trade results, Mr Byers said the authority would continue to work with the state government and stakeholders to facilitate the continuation of iron ore export and attract new trade.
“These important gains have not outweighed the decrease in iron ore tonnage through Esperance of three million tonnes,” he said.
“We’d all love to think that another iron ore provider will come through and have millions and millions of tonnes but the little miners are really important - they employ a lot of people, all local, they look to come to the local areas.
“I’m positive that in the next 18 months to two years we’ll see a lot of new trade come through.”