Rick Ness was missing in action in the latest installment of Discovery Channel’s “Gold Rush.” With no word from the network if the gold miner quit or was fired from the hit reality television show, fans began speculating on the possible reasons behind his absence. People looked back on his gold mining journey from working for Parker Schnabel to leading his own mining crew. Even his personal life and relationship with his fiancée were not spared from scrutiny in an attempt to understand what could have happened to him. The truth was uncovered upon a friend’s visit to his place, when Rick disclosed what he was going through.

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Meet Rick Ness and how he got into gold mining

Rick Ness was born in 1981, to parents Richard “Big Rick” Ness and Judy Marie Bedard. He was raised in a small town in Escanaba, Michigan, and growing up worked for the family construction business called Roy Ness Contracting & Sales Inc., run by his dad and uncles.

After sustaining an injury playing football when in college, he turned to music and joined a streetgrass band called .357 String Band, in which he played the upright bass. The band released three albums and went on tours, but disbanded in 2011 after seven years. 31-year-old Rick was lured by the idea of gold mining upon meeting 16-year-old Parker Schnabel when the band performed at a State Fair in Haines, Alaska in one of their last shows. Within a year, Parker called and offered him a job running equipment at $20 an hour, so Rick became part of his crew in the Spring of 2012, and appeared in “Gold Rush” beginning in Season Three, since Parker’s mining activities were featured in the show at that time.

The following year, Parker brought Rick with him to dig for gold at the Scribner Creek Mine in the Klondike in Yukon, and they amassed more than $1 million worth of gold. By 2015, Rick was promoted to foreman, and although it was a big responsibility, he was up for it.

Rick struck out on his own

In 2017, Rick’s relationship with Peter turned sour. Things could get ugly pretty quickly especially if one was causing the other to lose money. Some viewers chalked it up to miscommunication, and it led to Peter being upfront with Rick as he said, ‘If you want to run your own mine site, which is the way you’re running this show; doing it with my money without collaborating with me, doesn’t work.’ Admittedly, Rick was beginning to want to venture out on his own and do things his own way. Despite mining over 6,000 ounces of gold worth around $9 million during his fifth season at the Klondike with Parker, Rick still felt that it was time to go.

It was the biggest gamble of his life with his own money on the line, but he believed he was ready to start his own mining operation. Rick said that mining made his life better, and he wanted to do that for other people as well, particularly those he cared about. He hired his buddies even if they had no experience in mining or running heavy equipment, as he would train them. He was a seasoned miner, but he still needed someone to help him, and so he reached out to his dad Rick Ness Senior, who had 40 years of experience moving dirt.

He went on to dig for gold at the Quartz Creek Mine in April 2018. It wasn’t easy because problems cropped up, and he doubted himself for a moment before remembering he knew how to do this, and that he was capable. He turned to people who could help him whenever problems cropped up at the site. In his first season as the mine boss, he got more than 1,000 ounces of gold worth over $1.3 million, and gave each member of his crew a share of the gold.

Rick Ness missing in action

Season 13 was said to be the toughest season yet even for highly skilled miners with years of experience on the job. The fuel prices had gone up, spare parts had been hard to come by, and the price of gold was not as high as in previous years. Prior to its premiere, there had been rumors that Rick Ness was not coming back, and viewers couldn’t help but be curious about his situation, because he was not one to back down from hard work. Here are theories that fans came up with to explain his absence:

Rick’s not really into gold mining

In an interview, Rick was asked if he enjoyed the TV production aspect when mining. He said that there were parts that he would miss if the cameras were suddenly gone, because some of it was fun. As far as continuing with his mining activities, however, he really couldn’t say because he didn’t plan on doing it for the rest of his life. That said, he knew that it was an opportunity that he couldn’t pass up and that he would try his utmost with it. Some thought that the lure of prospecting for gold had waned for Rick, and that there were other activities that fascinated him more.

He announced in October 2016 via a Facebook post that he was about to go on the craziest adventure of his life, and it was being filmed for Discovery Channel. More than a year later, he posted a photo in which he was holding what seemed like a giant beetle, and said he was out of his comfort zone but survived six weeks in the Amazon jungle. He shared how scary the experience was as he slept in a hammock every single night in the middle of the jungle and he could hear loud noises not knowing what was making them, or where exactly it was coming from.

In 2020, he competed in Iceman 500, a 500-mile endurance race with a souped-up old Utility Task Vehicle (UTV) across a frozen lake, for a chance to win $10,000. It was aired in a two-hour special called “Gold Rush Rick’s Rally.” The following year, he participated in the Best in the Desert Parker 250, an off-road racing. Rick had the chance to race beside some of the best teams in the world and tested his skills in his first desert race. He drove a newly built U970 with Jacob Zuccone as his co-driver, and they placed fifth in the first race of the season held in Parker, Arizona.

The pressure of being a mine boss was too much for Rick

Running one’s own mining operation was stressful, particularly since gold mining wasn’t a sure deal. One could easily go bankrupt because there was no guarantee that one would dig-up gold or at least enough of it to cover the operating expenses. The pressure of being the boss especially when he was hemorrhaging money with no gold in sight got to him, and he would hide in his trailer at times because he felt lost. He thought the stress would kill him before he was ready to go, saying that he found himself sacrificing his health and sanity for this, and he knew he had to figure out how to do things without driving himself into the ground, and affecting everyone around him.

The truth about Rick’s condition and why he stopped mining

Rick addressed the issue of his absence right on the show in the “Searching for Ness” episode. Perhaps the network or the production company was aware that not talking about it would only lead to unfounded rumors, and it wouldn’t be good for Rick to have to deal with it on top of everything that he was going through around that time.

“Zee” Zaremba said that his friend and boss was a ‘pretty closed off guy’ but more so lately as he noticed that Rick’s been keeping to himself. When he hadn’t heard from Rick for weeks, he drove over to his place in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to check up on him. He said, ‘I love the guy. I hope he’s alright. That’s all I really want.’ Upon seeing Rick, one could see from his expression and behavior that something was bothering him. At first, it might seem like Rick was hesitant to open up as to what had been going on with him, as he brought Zee to his garage and talked about the work he had been doing on his car instead.

However, Zee wasn’t dissuaded from getting to the bottom of things, and asked Rick why he was sitting at home and not at the site digging for gold, to which Rick confessed that he had been wondering about that as well.

Rick had seasonal affective disorder

The only reason that Rick could have come up with as to why he wasn’t mining was that he waot just not up for it, and was aware of how weird it sounded. His friend then asked if what he was feeling was mental or physical, and Rick replied that he was probably suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression or mood disorder that was associated with seasonal changes. Symptoms included feeling hopeless, worthless, guilty, listless, or down nearly every day, as well as losing interest in things that were once considered to be enjoyable. SAD usually starts and ends at about the same time every year.

Some regarded it as simply a case of “winter blues”, but it wasn’t something that could easily be brushed off. Rick said that after filming season 12 and returning home, he crashed and didn’t feel like getting back up. It was a tough time for him, as he never struggled with depression before, and didn’t know where it was coming from or what to do about it. He knew he had to get ahold of himself because it wasn’t just him or his livelihood that was affected; many people were counting on him.

His mother passed away

His friend asked if the depression had set in after his mother passed away, because Zee knew how much Rick loved her. Rick’s mom, Judy Marie, was in her 50s when she succumbed to cancer in March 2018. He was with her when it happened, as he said, ‘She left us peacefully in her house and with my face resting against hers she took her last breath. It hurts. It’s not long enough.’ Some believed that he hadn’t grieved for her properly, or hadn’t fully accepted that she was gone. She left her house to him, but he hadn’t been back there for two years. He knew he should go there and get closure, although he wasn’t sure if it would help him or not.

Rick shared that after the death of his mom, he put that whole experience in a little box thinking that he would deal with it when he was better prepared. It was understandable, because at that time he had a lot on his mind, as’ had a commitment to the show, and people depended on him as he was the boss and so he needed to focus on that. Instead of giving himself time to mourn, he worked and worked until his grief caught up with him. He learned that there was never a better time for something like this, as he said, ‘It will come screaming back at you when you least expect it if you try and ignore it.’

Rick’s on the mend

By 2021, as he greeted his mom on Mother’s Day via his Facebook page, he claimed that he had accepted that she was gone and that if he had her back for just one day, the only thing that he would tell her was that he loved her. He said, ‘I am no perfect son, no perfect man, no perfect anything, and I will never claim to be.’ nonetheless, he wanted to thank his mother for playing a huge role in helping him become the man he is today.

His grandmother Lola Ness died at the age of 95 in January 2022. She had always referred to him and his twin brother as ‘The two best boys in town.’ He said that he would surely miss her, but he was happy that she was at peace. Perhaps this helped him come to terms that death was a part of life. As he took time off from the show, he had the chance to reflect and focus on his well-being.

2022 had been a tough year for him as he was not equipped to deal with mental health issues. He didn’t know anything about it, and ‘til then had even viewed it as an ‘over-exaggeration.’ He said that dealing with losses and the stresses of everyday life was very real. It was difficult for him to admit that he had a mental health problem, but that he was working on how to understand and cope with it. He also encouraged people who were struggling just like him to do the same, and assured them that they were not alone.

Getting engaged

For the longest time since he was on social media, Rick hadn’t posted anything about his relationships. However, in October 2022, he announced his engagement to Leese Marie when he greeted her on her birthday. He said that she had been there for him through one of the toughest years of his life and wanted to do the same thing for her. ‘I decided to make her my favorite girl for the rest of our lives.’ A month later, Leese reportedly revealed via TikTok that they broke off their engagement, as she accused him of cheating on her.

As Rick welcomed 2023, he was back with Leese and credited her for sticking it out with him even when he was at his worst. He opened up about making a mess of everything and taking her for granted, as he said, ‘From ruining plans, holidays, and even worse stepping out on her, I’ve done the unforgivable, but she has continued to forgive me.’ He felt bad that some people blamed her for his problems, when the truth was that she had done nothing but try to help him get through it.

What’s next for Rick Ness?

It seemed that things were continuing to get better for Rick, as he tried his hardest to straighten out his life, although he said that he still made mistakes, as he was nowhere near perfect nor would he ever be.

There were talks that Rick was coming back to the show primarily because he posted in February 2023 on his Facebook page that he was looking for a fully licensed diesel mechanic who was willing to work long hours in a remote environment at the mine site int the Yukon territory of Canada. Many believed that since he would go back to mining, then it went without saying that he would be part of “Gold Rush”, be it the original series, a special, or a spin-off.

In his four seasons as a mine boss, he had mined about 4,700 ounces of gold worth more than $8.6 million. His fans couldn’t wait to see him back on the site, and see if he could top the amount of gold that he mined in the previous seasons.

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