Illawarra Coal employee Gabrielle Elsing was this week acknowledged as the first woman in NSW to obtain an engineering certificate of competence.
Ms Elsing was one of three employees to pass one of the state's toughest mining exams and now has a certificate of competence, which allows a holder to work as a mine mechanical engineer.
The 23-year-old, who works at Dendrobium Mine, completed the qualification with Appin Mine's Jason Quirk, 43, and West Cliff Coal preparation plant's Tim Pratt, 30.
To earn it, they had to pass two written examinations on a range of health and safety laws and demonstrate practical knowledge of underground coalmine operations.
They also had to pass a one-hour oral examination.
Illawarra Coal president Troy McDonald said gaining the certificate was difficult and a remarkable achievement.
"It is a good demonstration of the diversity of professional development that we offer," he said."Not only is Gabrielle the first female in NSW to hold the engineering competency ticket, she is also only in her second year of the BHP Billiton Illawarra Coal Graduate Program - an impressive qualification to obtain so early in her career," he said.
"Our graduate program is an important part of our long-term commitment to the region and to see these young employees achieving results like this demonstrates that Illawarra Coal's commitment to employing local youth is paying dividends. This program that we set up about three years ago internally allows a broad range of diverse backgrounds and experience to be able to progress through the mining industry, which is crucially important for this region."
Ms Elsing started with Illawarra Coal as an undergraduate three years ago.
The former Chevalier College student decided she wanted to get into mining while in the first year of a mechanical engineering degree with the University of Wollongong.
She said she was grateful for the support and guidance she had received from the company, as the industry saw more women choosing a career in mining.
"I enjoy the challenge of working in this industry."
Ms Elsing hoped the certificate would help her finish her graduate program with a competence that would allow her to manage people if the opportunity arose.
"I would like to have a career progressing hopefully towards using my ticket," she said.
Mr Pratt said the qualification would help him fulfil the obligations of a new role he was going into as a mechanical engineer in charge of a surface operation. He is moving up from a second-in-charge position after making the transition from the steelworks three years ago.
Mr Quirk has been in the industry since 1987 and has worked for BHP Billiton for two years.
"Basically, this means I can step up when our current manager of mechanical engineering is on leave and would be responsible for about 120 people."