Julie Shuttleworth loves travel, chemistry and big trucks, which makes her a perfect fit to head Barrick Gold’s Laverton gold mine.
It’s a long way from where the Pemberton-raised Ms Shuttleworth might have ended up, with her high school teachers pushing her to take on a career in medicine.
Against their advice, she stuck to her guns to find something that would suit her passion for chemistry, rocks and big trucks.
“I went out and found out for myself what courses were out there to study,” said Ms Shuttleworth, who in the end did a double major in chemistry and metallurgy at Murdoch University.
Not content with just working in a laboratory in Perth, she did vocational work at various mine sites while at university, doing the jobs that everyone hated such as steel picking and hosing slurry.
“I thought it was great, because at that age you don’t really know what you’re doing at university until you get out there and get firsthand experience,” Ms Shuttleworth recalls, adding the experience helped her land her first mining gig in the Pilbara.
However it was a four-week scholarship in the late 1990s to look at mines in North America that led Ms Shuttleworth closer to a career in mining, and sparked her desire to travel and work all over the world.
Back in Western Australia, she received an offer to work at a gold mine in China, whereit can be -20 degrees in the mountains, a “crazy” time Ms Shuttleworth recalls, including one very memorable story.
“I had to sell two gold bars to the bank and they didn’t have scales heavy enough to weigh them, and this was a three-hour drive from the mine,” she said.
“So I had to go to the shop to get some hack saws and blades and there I was, standing in the middle of this bank, cutting up these gold bars into thirds before we could put them on the scales to weigh.
“We did it; we got the money and went back to the mine. There are so many cool stories like that, it’s a fabulous career.”
The next stop for Ms Shuttleworth was working for her current employer, Barrick Gold, in Tanzania, where she accomplished one of her proudest achievements and set records for the world’s largest gold miner.
There she helped to develop the $US400 million Buzwagi mine, taking it from feasibility stage to an operating mine, firstly as process manager.
“To get the process plant ramped up in two months from commissioning, to take a team of untrained Tanzanians who had just come from the schools or off the farms to trained people running a 4.5million tonne a year plant, that was really amazing,” Ms Shuttleworth said.
“And then to get promoted to general manager of that mine at the age of 35 and being the first female general manager and the youngest in the company, that was also really amazing.
“Who would have thought — a girl from Pemberton to being a GM of a mine in Tanzania.”
Her credentials in developing the mine against a backdrop of escalating prices and labour shortages in a foreign country put her in good stead with her employers, and in 2010 Barrick brought her back home and put her in charge of the Granny Smith gold mine near Laverton.
As general manager of the underground mine with 750 workers, Ms Shuttleworth has improved production by 55 per cent over the past two years and reduced staff turnover from 25 per cent to less than 10 per cent, while doubling the number of women on site.
More importantly for Ms Shuttleworth, however, she is able to dedicate more energy into developing her staff and others she has met along her career, acting as a mentor for more than 20 people on a formal and informal basis.
“My job is a bit of everything, and that’s what gets me excited,” she said. “First and foremost I have to ensure the safety of my employees and it’s my job to run the business, deliver results.
“But you can certainly help people, change their lives, help them to get more training, get a promotion, it’s great to have those contributions to people.”
Another one of her proudest accomplishments is helping one of her mentees achieve his personal goal of becoming a general manager of a mine.
Her overall career ambitions include becoming a director of operations and eventually chief operating officer.
Alongside those ambitions, Ms Shuttleworth will be indulging her passion for travelling, keen to get to Antarctica or eastern Europe, and clocking up 90 countries visited in her passport.