Gold miner Tony Beets is Gold Rush’s resident innovator, as fans saw in the Discovery series’ Oct. 8 episode “Madmax or Mad Man.” But those who saw what happened with Tony’s dredge in that episode can attest that the $1 million machine was a golden investment.
“The dredge is by far the most efficient washplant I’ve ever had,” Tony said on the show. “Dollar for dollar, cost per yard, I’m gonna beat most of these big guys out there. They’re never even gonna get close.”
But the dredge has sometimes been a headache for Tony, too. Here are some of the highs and lows…
Dredges like Tony’s once dredged 1 million ounces of gold in a single year.
As Gold Rush’s narrator recounted, Tony spent $1 million on the 75-year-old bucket line gold dredge in 2014, hoping it would revolutionize his mining operation. “Every Viking needs a ship; that is mine,” he said on the show.
And though that type of dredge hadn’t been used since the 1980s, it had an impressive track record. In 1939 alone, the narrator explained, the massive machines dredged 1 million ounces of Klondike gold, worth $1.8 billion in today’s money.
Tony Beets relocated his dredge “beam by beam, bolt by bolt” over the course of six months.
In the episode, viewers watched as Tony and his team spent six months moving the 350-ton machine to a new claim, deconstructing it and then putting it back together at its new site “beam by beam, bolt by bolt,” as the narrator said.
“Everybody thought I was crazy [and that] it couldn’t get done,” Tony said. “Well, there it is.”
Once the team got the dredge up and running, it started processing 2,000 gallons of water a minute — and it did the work of a dozer, an excavator, a rock truck, and a loader.
By 2016, Tony had realized a 60-percent profit with the dredge, 40 percent more than he got from his other washplants. And over five years, Tony had gotten a return of $7 million worth of gold from the dredge.
The dredge sank twice in 6 weeks.
As viewers witnessed in a previous season, the dredge sank twice in a six-week span. In the second incident, fine sand plugged up the sluices and spilled onto the deck beneath. And because the night crew had carelessly left the hatches on the deck open, the sand and water filled the pontoon and partially sank the dredge.
“Tony’s got a lot of money tied up in this machine, and here it is sitting there lookalike like that, it’s not a f—king proud moment,” one of his colleagues said at the time.
Luckily, the team got the machine floating again with ground water and water from the holding pond, and they even managed to rotate the massive machine 90 degrees to continue their gold rush.
A fiery stunt with the dredge got Tony in trouble.
In April 2017, Tony ended up in Yukon Territorial Court over a stunt in which a former employee doused the dredge pond with gasoline and another employee lit it on fire, according to CBC News. On Gold Rush, the narrator called the stunt a “Viking baptism” meant to change the dredge’s luck.
That August, Tony and his company were charged $31,000 for violating the Yukon Waters Act in the incident, as Yukon News reported at the time.
“Since I am the man running the show, I guess I should have been a little bit more, and told him not to do it,” Beets said that April, per CBC News. “However I didn’t do that, so here you are in court, so take the fine. Next time, don’t go there. It’s kind of a joke gone bad, right?”