In short: 

Steel production has resumed at the Whyalla Steelworks.

Workers are being welcomed back on to their 12-hour shifts after a shutdown in March resulted in shift reductions.

What’s next?

 A new thermal lancing system is being developed to prevent further shutdowns.

Steelmaking has resumed at the Whyalla Steelworks after GFG Alliance was able to restart the blast furnace.

The furnace became unusable when it cooled excessively during a planned routine maintenance shut down in March.

During this time many of the 1,100 employees at the steelworks were shifted onto an eight-hour day shift roster, rather than the 12-hour shifts across the normal 24-hour-a-day operation.

This resulted in a cut to wages of between 20 and 30 per cent.

During restart efforts there were several setbacks including damage to the blast furnace shell, which halted works until the damage was eventually repaired.

Australian Workers’ Union acting state secretary Gary Henderson says the union hopes GFG Alliance have  learned from this experience.   (Supplied: Australian Workers’ Union)

Acting state secretary for the Australian Workers’ Union Gary Henderson says he hopes future maintenance works won’t result in a loss of wages for workers.

“We’re calling on Liberty Steel when they undertake a maintenance shutdown next time — don’t lower the temperature too much,” he said.

“[So] we don’t go into this pain of having to change people’s shifts and renumeration.

“We really hope that they’ve learned from this experience and don’t repeat history again.”

Workers welcomed back

Though nearly all departments have been welcomed back to their regular shifts, Mr Henderson said it would still take some time before everyone is back to their normal hours.

“There needs to be some consideration in employees’ personal responsibilities with caring responsibilities,” he said.

“They’ve changed from shift workers to Monday to Friday day workers so they’ve had to change their personal arrangements and now need some time to change back.”

The shutdown left the community and employees concerned as the steelworks is the town’s main source of income.

Whyalla City Mayor Phill Stone says it’s a huge relief to have the steelworks back in business.(Supplied: Whyalla City Council)

City of Whyalla Mayor Phill Stone said seeing the steelworks up and running has brought a huge sigh of relief from locals.

“It’s been quite a difficult time for many in our community,” he said.

“These operations are critical for our community.”

In spite of delays, the steelworks owner plans to decarbonise the plant by 2030.(ABC News: Justin Hewitson)

GFG looks to the future

GFG Alliance chairman Sanjeev Gupta said work was also being done to prevent future stoppages to the blast furnace.

“While we recovered the blast furnace we also began designing and working out how to best use a special-purpose oxygen and natural gas lancing system which will give us more control over restarts,” he said.

Now that the blast furnace issues are behind it, Mr Gupta says the company is continuing to work towards being carbon neutral by 2030 work, despite a two-year delay to installing the electric arc furnace.