Gold mining is labor intensive, requiring long hours, physical strength, and skills in operating heavy pieces of machinery. Monica Beets is a tough girl who has proven time and again that she can hold her own in a male-dominated world, as shown in Discovery Channel’s “Gold Rush.” So much happened in Monica’s life in the eight mining seasons that she appeared in the series.

A little background on the show

In 2010 the economy was down, and Todd Hoffman and his father, Jack, were on the verge of selling their small airport in Sandy, Oregon. However, with the price of gold at an all-time high, they deemed it best to mine for that precious metal instead. The Hoffmans risked everything on what seemed like a crazy venture, considering that only Jack had experience in prospecting for gold in the 1980s, but had nearly went bankrupt because of it.

Todd enlisted friends who were also hoping to change their fortune, and they went to Alaska, where he leased a gold claim owned by his father’s old mining buddy, Earle Foster, in Porcupine Creek. They lacked expertise and didn’t have concrete plans, just a load of enthusiasm.

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The possibility of striking it rich mining for gold gave hope to most people, especially those who were down on their luck, and this was how the “Gold Rush” began. The idea was pitched by Todd Hoffman to various networks, and he ended up working with Discovery Channel. The reality television series premiered in 2011, and attracted more than three million viewers. The seasons that followed chronicled the mining activities of other miners, such as Parker Schnabel, Fred Hurt, Tony Beets, Rick Ness and Fred Lewis.

Gold mining journey of Monica Beets’ family

The Beets patriarch had come a long way from milking cows on a farm to being “Gold Rush” royalty – viewers witnessed his tenacity and backbreaking work in accomplishing what he set out to do. His wife Minnie, and children Monica, Kevin and Mike all helped in making their business one of Klondike’s most successful mining operations – their daughter, Bianca wasn’t part of the gold mining business.

How did it start?

Tony Beets was a farmer in the small village of Wijdenes in the Dutch province of North Holland, Netherlands, but wanted more out of life than just milking cows every morning. He was 23 when he left for Canada, but not without making plans with 22-year-old Minnie Turkstra – it was said that the two only had $300 between them and neither spoke English. Tony learned the language while doing construction work, and Minnie by watching soap operas. He found it ironic that the first job he got was milking cows at four dollars an hour on a farm in Salmon Arms, British Columbia.

Two months after they arrived in Canada, they heard about how one could make good money, around $1,000 a week, in the Yukon, and so in 1981 Tony went to Dawson City. He approached a local mining company called Tamarack and asked them to give him a try, that he was willing to work for free. Everything came naturally to him from moving dirt to handling equipment, and he worked 14 hours a day, seven days a week for six months with no day off. Not everybody could do that, so he eventually got a paid job, and became part of the mining crew.

Minnie followed him after five or six weeks, and they stayed in a tiny room. Both worked long hours as she juggled three jobs, while he was out in the mine, so they didn’t need much space, just a place they could crash. Having four kids (Bianca, Mike, Steve and Monica) coming one after another, Tony knew that being a machine operator wasn’t going to cut it.

His hard work paid off, and soon he began running the place, while Minnie did the books and all the paperwork, as the owner left them alone. Tony shared that it was all about paying attention and learning more each day as he worked his way up. He said that one should never be the last person to arrive in the morning, nor the first to leave in the evening. The time came when things just fell into place, and they bought Tamarack.

Monica began working in the mine at a young age

She was only 12 when she began working on a machine. Her father was unconventional in his manner of teaching, as he would just say, ‘You see that machine? Hop on it and in an hour, when I get back, we’re going to be working on it. Figure it all out yourselves.’ For the first four years of working for her dad, she handled heavy equipment such as the 988 loader, and became comfortable with it. Later on, she liked the loading trucks and the excavator; the worst job for her was feeding the plant.

Like her siblings, she said that she was never given a choice in the matter, on whether she wanted or was interested in it or not. With her mom handling everything in the office, Monica along with Kevin and Mike was out in the mine helping her dad with whatever he assigned them to do. Tony said, ‘These kids are lucky, each day they learn how to work for their money because if you don’t work, you don’t get [expletive] paid.’ He reiterated that they weren’t forced, as they were free to go somewhere else if they didn’t like it.

The Beets family in “Gold Rush”

Tony was introduced in season two (2011) when Todd Hoffman came knocking at his door and asked for some sage advice from him. Todd was amazed at how much gold the Beets were getting from the ground, and wished he could do the same thing. Tony said that it was really simple, as all the latter had to do was to ‘drill, drill, drill.’ It was all about drilling holes in various areas of the gold claim, and testing the pay dirt to see if the quantity of gold was sufficient enough to be profitable when extracted.

The following year, 17-year-old Parker Schnabel reached out to him, as he wanted to learn the tricks or secrets of the trade. Tony saw a lot of potential in him, as he said that the boy was smart and had the guts to make it in this business. By season four, Parker had leased ground owned by Tony; included in their agreement was that the Beets would get paid a percentage of what Parker made from mining gold.

Tony initially refused to reveal how much money his family was making – he only allowed the production company to film him and his crew for season five of the show and thereafter.

Her father’s costly obsession – the million-dollar dredge

Tony made a risky purchase – a 75-year-old dredge, one he hadn’t seen and hadn’t dredged gold for three decades. He believed it to be the best equipment for mining, but first it had to be stripped or torn down, transported and re-built on his Indian River claim. Monica, armed with a sledgehammer, had no qualms about being part of the team that dismantled the dredge.

Tony underestimated the time it would take to get it up and running, but just before the freeze hit, the dredge was operational. The goal was to have the dredge deliver 900 ounces of gold the following season, just to cover its million-dollar cost, but it fell short at 737 ounces. He had no regrets about buying the machine, as it was just the beginning of many years of dredging. He calculated that as it operated over 100 yards an hour, 24 hours a day, it could earn them as much as $350,000 a week and $7.5 million in five months. However, they had yet to produce that much gold from that dredge.

Running a mining operation

Monica along with her siblings was trained in the process of mining gold, so Tony had no problems entrusting them with the operations on Eureka Creek and Paradise Hill while he was busy with another project – he bought another old abandoned dredge, and had to go through the same process as the first one, saying ‘We gave our kids the perfect opportunity to fuck up their inheritance any which way they’d like.’ Having worked on the mine for so long every summer, he believed that they should have learned everything they needed to know about it. Monica, Mike and Steve did well, as they exceeded the goal of 2,000 ounces of gold set by their father.

She had also been assigned by her dad to run a dredge crew. While her team was doing their respective work, she was left to operate the dredge, and her first task was to move the 350-ton dredge onto fresh pay dirt. Viewers couldn’t help but be amazed by her skills in handling this big placer mining machine.

Her first gold claim

Problems often cropped up when mining gold such as the machine breaking down or not getting the water license approved in time so that operations were halted, and it was kind of a test on how the kids such as Monica would step up to the plate. She dug many holes across eight acres on Hunker Creek, where she could extract samples and determine if the area could produce sufficient gold. With the help of a fellow miner named Ruby, they processed the dirt, using a mini trommel, which would loosen up the gold from the clay, rocks, pebbles, or gravel, and then allow it to settle in the sluice box. After they processed the samples, Tony came to pan them and assess if the ground had been mined out, or if there was still gold left – panning is just that, the traditional way of extracting gold using a pan. Fortunately, the last sample had specks of gold in it, so Monica had found her first claim, which was a big deal because she’d just saved that year’s mining season for the family.

The real boss between mom and dad

Tony was a hard taskmaster, and pushed his people including his kids almost to their limits, to get things done even if all of them doubted that it would ever work. It also seemed that he never listened to anybody, as he believed himself to be always right, although fans could see how he deferred to his wife particularly when it came to money matters. Monica said she couldn’t say who was the real boss, however, her mom was the one who kept everyone sane, and helped them survive a summer of working together.

When Tony was asked about it, he said that even after 40 years, they hadn’t figured it out yet, but with Minnie handling all the money and Tony handling all the people and the work, they made a pretty good team.

On working in a male-oriented industry

Monica said that having a great role model in her mom made her strong. She knew that she was always going to have to prove herself capable in the field, as there were those who wouldn’t take her seriously. She didn’t take s**t from anybody, nor let anyone get under her skin. Her father had progressive views on women and what they could do in mining; she said that her dad didn’t care about gender, and believed that women could operate a machine just as well as men, or even better. However, when it came to heavy lifting, shoveling and other hard labor, he considered it a man’s job.

Monica dated Parker Schnabel

Parker once said that if things didn’t work out at Porcupine Creek where he was prospecting for gold, he might just come begging for a job with Tony, who in turn said that he was fine with it as long as Parker didn’t chase after his daughter. Monica revealed years later that she and the young miner went on a date of sorts – apparently, everybody including her brothers, was trying to pair them off. They even flew her to Haines, Alaska where he lived, and she spent a week with him and even met his mother. However, nothing came out of it.

What happened to Monica?

Fans could see how hard Monica worked every mining season, and were happy to know that she had a life outside of mining.

Monica’s wedding

On the day of her wedding to a guy named Taylor, Tony was still working at the mine, but made it on time to don a suit and walk his daughter down the aisle for the ceremony, held in Dawson City. This was reminiscent of the day Tony tied the knot with Minnie in Holland, as he said that he’d milked the cows in the morning before going to his own wedding. ‘Gold mining, that is my life, but you know what, it’s all about friends and family when push comes to shove.’ What was important to him was that his daughter was happy, so he couldn’t ask for anything more.

The newlyweds arrived at the reception on the town’s 1940 vintage red firetruck. Monica said that she only danced twice with her father, nec was during her graduation day, and the other was at her wedding. She shared that her dad had a softer side, and that while he didn’t cry at her graduation, she was sure he was teary-eyed when she said her vows. That day, she said, the only gold that mattered to her was the ring on her finger.

Gave birth to her first child

As busy as Tony was, he took time to go home as the whole family send-off Monica as she was about to give birth to her daughter they named Jasmine; he even gave her a hug when Monica requested it, then her mom drove her to the hospital. On his way back to the mine, Tony was clearly excited at the thought of having another granddaughter, who would be driving a loader when she turned 23, at which time he would be 87!

Monica and her baby were home on the day they weighed the amount of gold they’d extracted that week, over $500,000 worth, so everyone was happy. She even made a joke about how she shouldn’t laugh while breastfeeding, because her daughter would get a milkshake.

As for her future plans, she said in an interview in 2017 that she’d taken Emergency Medical Responder (EMR) and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) courses, as she was interested in working as a paramedic, but still planned to mine gold until it wasn’t worth it anymore. There was no pressure from her parents to take over the business; Tony said, ‘It’s up to them if they want to, and they could make a good living out of them. It’s a good life.’  If they wanted to do something else, they were free to do that as well. Besides, the old couple didn’t have any plans of retiring, as Minnie said that they were living a perfect life, because they only had to work seven months in a year and then had five months off.

Since Monica still worked at the mine, it went without saying that this was an ideal set-up for her too.

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