Gold mining is big business. Take for example Barrick Gold Corp which mined $8.77 billion in 2016 or Newmont Mining Corp which collected $7.11 billion that same year. Despite the possibility of riches most miners will fail or see a minuscule return on investment. It's those struggling miners that interested executives at Discovery Channel when they greenlit Gold Rush and then started airing the reality TV show starting in December 2010. The show focuses on greenhorn miners and their team of often inexperienced bosses who are hoping to strike it rich.
Since 2010 we've watched as James Harness, Parker Schnabel, and the rest of the cast of Gold Rush have searched for untold fortunes. Along the way, there have been plenty of questionable practices from the TV network, the show's producers, and the gold miners they are filming.
Parts Of The Show Are 100% Scripted
Former Gold Rush miner Jimmy Dorsey spoke with Oregon Gold and revealed that producers script parts of the show to make it as interesting as possible. Creating conflict and driving the story are the main reasons for this decision.
Dorsey says the scripted segments are planned out well in advance of filming, allowing miners to prepare for fake conflicts and sudden plot changes. Dorsey says he knew well ahead of time that he would be removed from the show.
Some Scenes Are Re-Enacted For The Film Crew
If you're a big fan of reality TV you're probably aware that film crews will spend months following around the show's stars. At the end of shooting boring moments are cut out and only the drama and biggest plot points are left.
With Gold Rush, the film crew will often miss something because their cameras are not turned on all day long. When a missed opportunity presents itself the show's stars are asked to re-enact what just happened when filming for halted.
Not All Of The Show's Drama Is Shown, Specifically Lawsuits From Locals
When Gold Miners filmed in the sleepy town of South Park for the 2017 season, local residents were not happy with the loud noises and environmental issues being caused by the show's miners. A lawsuit was filed in 2018 by a group called "Save South Park.
The lawsuit claims that Discovery Channel was only "mining for ratings" and ignored environmental concerns while also mining in an area that was zoned for residential use.
The Miners Destroyed A Salmon Breeding Ground
Many claims have been made about the lack of experience from the Gold Rush miners and it appears to have shown through when they destroyed a natural salmon breeding area. The crew allegedly drove a 50-ton piece of equipment through a salmon habitat which destroyed the natural resource.
Salmon breeding grounds are protected by law but the crew claimed they were given permission under State laws to drive their heavy machines. They may be right about state laws but it's still highly irresponsible and destructive.
More Drama Equals More Screen Time
If you can generate drama and general interest from fans of Gold Rush you'll earn more screen time and that equates to a bigger paycheck. Given the pressure to secure your job and more money, many of the conflicts are created for promotional purposes.
The next time you watch two miners get into a verbal or physical altercation just remember this show is pure entertainment and not a dose of reality. Get into a fist fight while working for a billion dollar mining company and you'll be job hunting right away.
The Guys Aren't Hurting For Cash
When Gold Rush started, its biggest star Parker Schnabel said he sold all his possessions and went into massive debt to start his own gold mining operation. Today, he has a net worth estimated at $2 million.
It's believed Schnabel and Todd Hoffman each earn $25,000 per episode or $500,000 per season. Secondary supporting cast member Dave Turin is estimated to earn $300,000 per season while Jack Hoffman collects $200,000. Those salaries don't include the money each cast member receives from their actual gold haul. Sign me up!
Experience Isn't A Requirement
If you've watched a few episodes of Gold Rush you've likely noticed that a lot of the workers seem to have no idea what they are doing. It probably won't surprise many people to learn that the show's producers are more focused on the people over their skillsets.
If you can generate a lot of controversy on the job site and you're not afraid to put your worst self out there, you could be a future star on this type of "reality" TV show.
Broken Down Equipment? It's All Part Of The Show's Plans
Have you ever noticed that the miners on Gold Rush are constantly fixing broken down equipment, often at critical moments when their fortunes are at risk of floating away down the river? It's all part of the show's vision created by its team of producers and directors.
Claims from crew members and miners have alluded to producers asking that equipment be poorly maintained by the mining companies involved in the show. In harsh conditions, regular maintenance is needed. With Gold Rush, there are simply far too many mechanical breakdowns to make sense of during a single mining season.
Where Did Those Miners Go?
One of the strangest occurrences on Gold Rush is the sudden and unexplained disappearances of series regulars. One second you're watching a series favorite interact with his colleagues and the next moment, poof!
This type of strange disappearance is exactly what happened with Jason Otteson, Dustin Hurst, and Michael Halstead. Having the show's less entertaining characters go away isn't unusual but the sudden loss of the actors along with absolutely no mentions about why they left is a bit strange.
They Killed A Bear
In May of 2010, a bear approached the mining ground where Mike Halstead was working with his grew. It really wasn't the bear's fault as they were simply stealing some graham crackers that the miners carelessly left in the open.
Mike Halstead decided to solve the problem by tracking down the bear and shooting it. The needless death of the bear could have been avoided if the inexperienced miners hadn't left food sitting out in the open — in the wilderness! Officials say the killing was 100% unnecessary and avoidable.
Todd Hoffman Is Allegedly Not A Nice Guy
Todd Hoffman comes off as one of the more level headed guys on the show. In reality, former cast members have said he's an inexperienced miner who has endangered the safety of his workers while treating them like the dirt they spend long days hauling to the sleuth.
We did see him scream at a miner but apparently, his desire to achieve fame and fortune have also caused him to ignore family and friends in place of his own pursuits. His screaming match with a fellow minor was reportedly not a scripted moment.
James Harness Suffered From Addiction Following An Accident
The 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health estimated that two million Americans misused prescription pain relievers for the first time. James Harness fell prey to the same type of addiction after he started taking pain medication following a severe car accident years before he appeared on the show.
James Harness was fired following season two, allegedly because he failed to meet a 100-ounce goal set by his team. It's believed that his addiction to pain killers led to various problems with the cast and crew on Gold Rush. After leaving the show his drug abuse worsened and he died of a stroke in 2014.
Breaking The Law? Now That's Good Entertainment!
When representatives visit mining sites on the show and drama ensues, you should just assume some type of local or state law was skirted for the purpose of ratings. With millions of fans per episode, producers are okay paying a fine if they can capture an inspectors reactions on camera.
Claims have been made that the show's producers had suggested diverting water from a local stream instead of using groundwater. In response, a government official had to visit the mining site to show them the proper way to operate. Allegedly, producers hoped the manner would go to court which would give them more publicity, instead, a small fine was issued.
Editors Choose Which Guys To Make 'Good' And 'Bad' While Editing
Producers and editors have been accused of editing together footage of the show's stars to make certain people look good and others look bad. Even some of the more level headed guys have been shown in a negative light.
Jimmy Dorsey left the show and then said about 90% of his actions on the show were never spotlighted but the show's producers loved painting him as a villain. Dorsey says the showrunners were only interested in "creating a character" instead of allowing the guys to shine with their own personalities.
Fred Hurt Really Did Turn On His Fellow Cast Members
One of the best "characters" to appear on Gold Rush was "Dakota" Fred Hurt. He was a regular on the first four seasons and then he decided to turn on his co-workers and production crews. Hurt created a lot of TV-worthy drama and it apparently wasn't scripted.
The Gazette Review reports that Hurt bought up all of Porcupine Creek's land and then told everything to get off his land. We don't know if this guy is a real-life villain or an actual outdoorsman who was sick of watching the show's producers destroy natural resources for the sake of TV ratings.
Dave Turin's Teeth Are All Fake And The Story Is Inspiring
Bear with us for a moment because this isn't related directly to the show but it deserves mentioning because Dave Turin is somewhat of a hero. During an interview with Discovery Channel, the Gold Rush cast member revealed that all of his teeth are fake!
A lot of people have fake teeth but the story behind his set of teeth is unique. Turin revealed that during his childhood a friend was being bullied. Turin couldn't stand watching his friend get hurt and he stuck up for his bullied buddy. Turin was attacked for his courage and all of his teeth were knocked out.
An Accidental Job?
Chris Doumitt had no aspirations to mine for gold. Doumitt was doing carpentry work for the Hoffmans when he became intrigued by the family gold mining business.
It wasn't long before he was asked to join their team and he started his new career as a gold miner a little later in life than some of the guys on the show. He says gold mining now is "like opening a Christmas present." When the show debuted his loyalty to the Hoffmans paid off and he has been featured front and center on the popular TV show.
Gold Mining Has Nearly Cost Jack Hoffman Everything
Jack Hoffman is one of the more passionate gold miners on Gold Rush and he has over 25 years experience in the field, making him one of the more knowledgeable guys to have ever appeared on the Discovery Channel series. t
Nearly 25 years ago Hoffman nearly lost everything while working on an Alaskan mining episode. Instead of slowing down he doubled down. It takes a strong person to work in such a risky and volatile industry for decades. He's the closest thing to an old prospector on the show and we love him for it.
Todd Hoffman's Two Ounces Of Gold Disaster
While they don't always end up with $1 million paydays the guys on Gold Rush seem to do pretty well for themselves but that isn't always the case when the cameras are not pointed directly at them.
Todd Hoffman at one point in his career decided to mine for gold in the tough terrains of Guyana, South America. He spent three years trying to strike it rich. When he finally returned home after three years he had only two ounces of gold to show for his work. It was a complete financial disaster.
Dave Turin's Lost Mine Was Built On Two Years Of Work
On March 1, 2019, Discovery Channel announced a spin-off series titled Gold Rush: Dave Turin's lost mine. The premise is simple, Turin goes in search of his family's lost gold mine which he hopes will reveal a new fortune.
The new spin-off was actually the result of Dozer Dave's two years away from the series that made him reality star famous. Turin spent two years traveling around the country helping other miners uncover gold on their land. The show has been warmly received by fans of the original series.