The State Government gas given the green light to the long-awaited expansion of the Esperance port to handle an expected surge in iron ore exports from aspiring miners in the Yilgarn region east of Perth.
Transport Minister Troy Buswell said the State Government had accepted an Esperance Port Authority recommendation to start a procurement process to identify a private sector consortium to design, finance, construct and operate a multi-user iron ore facility at Esperance.
The move will give a host of iron ore explorers the confidence to move forward with plans to expand and develop their projects.
Mr Buswell said potential proponents were invited to apply for pre-qualification to participate in a Request for Proposal process.
"Following this initial step, potential proponents will be shortlisted and invited to participate in a RFP process," he said.
It is expected the preferred proponent will be identified later this year.
"All project funding and associated costs will be the responsibility of the private sector proponent ultimately selected through the RFP process."
Last year the Liberal National Government indicated its preference for Esperance Port as the site for additional port infrastructure to cater for demand from iron ore producers in the Yilgarn region.
Mr Buswell said the proposed facility would lead to an expansion of Esperance Port's iron ore export capacity.
The size of the new facility would be determined by the proponent building the new infrastructure after entering into contracts with miners.
Recent estimates by the Esperance Port Authority indicate it may be commercially viable to develop a facility for an additional 10 to 12 million tonnes per year.
The port already has an operating licence to handle 11.5 million tonnes a year.
"Today's decision will facilitate growth of the Yilgarn region's iron ore sector," Mr Buswell said.
"Investors interviewed during the market sounding considered the Yilgarn region to have reasonable prospects of generating additional financially viable iron ore projects which are required to support investment in the new facility."
The market sounding exercise also confirmed previous industry studies that iron ore production in the Yilgarn Region could significantly grow in the next 10-15 years.
The facility would be designed to allow for further expansion as required.Interested parties have until Friday, March 1 to register their interest.