The Esx secretion pathway is conserved across Gram-positive bacteria. Esx-1, the best-characterized system, is required for virulence of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, although its precise function during infection remains unclear. Esx-3, a paralogous system present in all mycobacterial species, is required for growth in vitro. Here, we demonstrate that mycobacteria lacking Esx-3 are defective in acquiring iron. To compete for the limited iron available in the host and the environment, these organisms use mycobactin, high-affinity iron-binding molecules. In the absence of Esx-3, mycobacteria synthesize mycobactin but are unable to use the bound iron and are impaired severely for growth during macrophage infection. Mycobacteria thus require a specialized secretion system for acquiring iron from siderophores.