The Whyalla blast furnace is a step closer to becoming fully operational after molten metal was extracted from the normal taphole for the first time since March.

The successful connection came Monday, following repeated attempts to move from the emergency taphole, which has been used to evacuate hot molten material.

Sandip Biswas, chief executive of Liberty Primary Metals Australia, a subsidiary of GFG Alliance, said expert crews were still working towards bringing the blast furnace back to normal production.

“The connection with a usual taphole on the blast furnace is a positive and important step,” he said. 

Though an important step in the restart process, it is unclear when the blast furnace will be back to producing usable metal.

GFG Alliance chairman Sanjeev Gupta during a visit to the Whyalla steelworks.(Supplied: GFG )

GFG Alliance chairman Sanjeev Gupta was briefed by a team of experts working to fix the furnace, on a visit to Whyalla in May.

At the time Mr Gupta said the expectation was that the steelworks would be back to normal by June.

Though it is unlikely the steelworks will meet this deadline, a GFG Alliance spokesperson declined to speculate on a restart date.

Only eight of 18 wind tuyeres have been brought back online, with at least 12 needed to pour quality steel.

Mr Biswas said he was “confident we will resume normal steel production soon”. 

Whyalla steelworks’ managing director Tony Swiericzuk says it’s been two steps forward one step back.(ABC News: Che Chorley)

Restarting the blast furnace has been a painstaking task and was previously described as a “two steps forward, one step back” process, according to Whyalla steelworks managing director Tony Swiericzuk.

Problems for the furnace began when it cooled too much during a planned two-day stoppage for routine maintenance in March.

In early May the shell of the blast furnace was damaged during recovery works, before being repaired.

SA Energy and Mining Minister Tom Koutsantonis, who has expressed his “grave concerns” over the situation, said yesterday’s breakthrough was good news.

Mr Koutsantonis said his thoughts were with the many workers among the 1,100-strong workforce who remain on up to 30 per cent less pay until the steelworks is fully operational.

“We’re just observers really, they’re the ones who are living it day in day out. They’re the ones without their husbands or wives working at the steelworks without their regular income coming in,” he said.

Mr Koutsantonis said the prolonged issues with the blast furnace had not shaken the government’s $50 million investment to help GFG Alliance purchase an electric arc furnace.

“Our $50 million is not an up-front payment. It’s a payment in arrears,” he said.

“So we’re comfortable that our investment is safe. [But] I want GFG to start delivering on what they promised. 

“Less talk, more action … that’s what we all want now.”