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South Australia’s troubled Whyalla steelworks, recently bought by a British billionaire, has ramped up production in a bid to produce 1.2 million tonnes of steel per year.

The plant now owned by industrialist Sanjeev Gupta’s Liberty OneSteel has exported its first steel slabs to its sister plant in Wales, executive general manager Theuns Victor said on Tuesday.

“These exports will ultimately enable us to increase production, in turn resulting in greater utilisation of the plant which helps reduce our overall running costs,” he said.

Mr Gupta purchased the Whyalla steelworks last August, promising to invest $1 billion to increase production and modernise the plant.

His takeover of the then-Arrium plant ended 15 months of uncertainty after the company was placed in administration because of its inability to refinance rising debts.