A year ago, I made a trip to the far reaches of Canada’s Yukon territory to do some digging in the dirt with the miners featured on Discovery‘s no. 1 series Gold Rush (airing Fridays at 9). After unearthing a couple of flakes of gold, I assumed the miners would beg me to stay so that they could reap the benefits of my obvious natural talent for the business.
But a year later, I did get a call from way up north. It was from Monica Beets, daughter of legendary gold miner Tony Beets, who is making quite a name for herself hunting buried treasure on her father’s claims. While she didn’t invite me back up for to have another go at the permafrost hills, she did fill me in on what it takes to survive and thrive in the rough and tough business of gold mining.
How are things in tropical Yukon?
Things are good. I wouldn’t say it is tropical, but it’s not too cold, actually.
What’s your definition of “not too cold”?
It’s -10 Celsius. The mine is closed down for the season. The equipment doesn’t like the weather and neither do the employees.
So you’re done digging, but in terms of the Gold Rush TV season, we’re just getting started. We’ve seen you following your dad’s orders and we’ve also seen you run your own crew. Which role are you most comfortable in?
I’m good with either — I just like to know what the plan is. “If this goes wrong, go over here and do that.” That’s how I like to run things, keep everyone on the same page. Until my dad comes in and within five minutes everybody’s in a cluster fuck.
Your dad is famous for his not-so-gentle management style.
He’s a great guy, sometimes he’s not so great at communicating. I think if everybody knows the big picture of what needs to happen, you’re more likely to get what you want. As opposed to giving one person one bit of information and the next person a little bit and so on. That makes it really confusing. I think it also helps to tell your workers that they’re doing a good job every once in a while! And if they’re doing something wrong, tell them right away as opposed to letting it build up to where it’s a problem and then you’re yelling at them.
The show profiles a number of different crews looking for gold. Some crews do great season after season, and others routinely fail. Do you think there’s a point where people need to recognize that their skills don’t support their passion?
If you’re always ending up in a slump and owing thousands of dollars, there’s no real point in continuing. You need to get to a place where you can prosper at your passion. Like I have a couple of artist friends that have a real job and do their art on the side. If their art gets big, they’ll do that full-time, but there’s no reason to go broke in the meantime. Likewise, there’s no point going broke mining because you’re never going to make your money back.
At the end of most shows, you do a weigh in to see how much gold you got. How does it feel when you’re looking at a big pan filled with gold?
For me, it’s less about the weigh-in and more about when we’re mining. I love to look down in the sluice box [where mined material is collected in the wash plant] and see that we’re catching gold because then you know that you made money that day. It’s nice to see a big pile of gold, don’t get me wrong, but you have to consider how much you spent on fuel and equipment and employees to get it.
Are you conscious of the TV cameras or are you used to it by now?
I am super-conscious of the cameras. I hate getting my picture taken. I hate like when the camera points at me, it’s super uncomfortable.
You fake it pretty well. So I guess you won’t likely make the leap to Dancing with the Stars?
I have no rhythm, so I really don’t see me doing that, no.
Do you watch Gold Rush?
Honestly, no. We mine from April to October 12 hours a day, six or seven days a week. October to April is my downtime. And I don’t want to spend it watching my job on TV.
Mining does seem to be an easy business. Do you face extra challenges being a woman in a field traditionally dominated by men?
Up here, a lot of people have daughters who work at the mines — it’s just another body who can work another piece of equipment. So up here, it doesn’t matter. But with outside people I find they make it a big thing. Before I was on the show, I’d tell people I was on a gold mine and they’d say, “Oh, you’re the cook.” No, I run equipment. As a woman, I constantly felt like I had to prove or explain myself, but now I don’t care. If I see someone doing something wrong, I don’t care if it is a guy or a girl or how old they are, I tell them this is how you do it. They might like you or hate you, but they’ll respect you. And that’s how she goes.
Check out this classic moment from Gold Rush