As a four-wheel drive truck with a large red metal box on its flatbed rumbles into the gaping mouth of the Cononish mine, near Tyndrum in the west of Scotland, geologist Rachael Paul explains what’s happening.
“They can carry explosives in there”, she says.
We are heading into the access tunnel at Scotland’s only gold mine. Scotgold Resources has been developing mining work at this site since 2007.
And now the company is aiming to ramp up extraction and wants to develop new sites nearby.
By the end of this year, it aims to be extracting about 2,000 ounces (57kg) of gold monthly, worth more than £3m.
It’s a wild winter’s day on the surface, but as we travel further into the mountain, it begins to feel mild, almost warm.
“It’s a quartz vein with sulphides in it. It runs through the mountain. It’s been here for 400 million years.
“We’re looking for pyrites, sulphides, different minerals, because the gold isn’t visible to the naked eye.”
Geologist Rachael Paul says the potential for further development and mining at the site is “exciting”
Rachael’s team map the vein and tell the miners which direction to drill into the rock.
They then charge it, blast it and muck it out with trucks. It’s taken away to be crushed into a concentrate that contains the gold.
It has taken two years to reach this point in the mine’s development.
This main tunnel is more than a kilometre long. More tunnels branch off it. They follow the vein on three levels.