MORE than a decade ago Rachael Paul would pass the Cononish site on her way to walk the nearby Ben Lui.

She wasn’t to know it then, but years later the geologist has been half way round the world honing her skills in the heat of Africa to return to a familiar place to help lead Scotland's first commercial gold mining operation.

Now Ms Paul, a senior underground mine geologist from Edinburgh, has been recognised for her achievements at the Argyll mine and has been included in the 2022 edition of 100 Global Inspirational Women in Mining.

Ms Paul previously worked at the Komoto Copper Company in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where she joined a team of over 7,000 people, leading the way as one of only 10 women on site.

In Scotland, Ms Paul has also helped steer the fortunes of the mine, which is on course to produce gold at a rate of 23,500 ounces a year.

“I know the glen,” she said. “So it was nice to be able to come back home and do what you are passionate about on your home turf.”

HeraldScotland: Ms Paul mentors students 'with great passion about the geology around her', the firm saidMs Paul mentors students 'with great passion about the geology around her', the firm said (Image: Scotgold)

Ms Paul, 31, is a chartered geologist with experience working in open pit and underground production, as well as exploration, resource, and engineering geology.

During her time at Scotgold she has updated the company’s approach to grade control across the mine, including mapping and underground core drilling.

Ms Paul, who says that “one minute you can be presenting to the board of directors and the next minute you’re underground chiselling into a rock face”, has worked to build geological systems that have helped build the mine into a cash-generative operation.

The Herald told how the mine is on course for over 20,000 ounces a year

Ms Paul “works collegiately, sharing geological knowledge across other departments”, Scotgold said.

She also launched the company's student placement scheme and annual bursary with the University of St Andrews, and mentors students.

Currently, 14.4 per cent of Scotgold employees including consultants, and of 33% senior leaders, are women, and the firm is “committed to increasing these percentages”.

HeraldScotland: Ms Paul said: 'I believe that increasing opportunities for women entering the industry is crucial'Ms Paul said: 'I believe that increasing opportunities for women entering the industry is crucial' (Image: Scotgold)

Ms Paul said: “Scotgold as an employer is a really inclusive place for females, we have a female miner, my manager is female, we have three female lab technicians, so it is a really inclusive, warm environment for females to be, which is really good.”

Phil Day, Scotgold Resources chief executive, said Ms Paul “has achieved more in her early career as a geologist than many will achieve in decades working underground – more than fulfilling the definition of trailblazer”.

He said: “Rachael demonstrates passion, direction and dedication to her work and the team around her at Scotgold – helping to lead progress and growth from the front.

"We hope her story will inspire future talent in Scotland and the UK, to choose careers in mining.”

Stacy Hope, of WIM100, said: “Rachael was selected as a WIM100 for her continuous enthusiasm for the mining sector, as well as for her work in educating and encouraging the next generation to become more involved in the industry.”