Dave Turin’s Lost Mine is back this Friday, and the stakes are huge as Turin headed to big sky country, Montana.
It is there where he found a motherlode of opportunities, working out deals with frazzled landowners and in the process, reclaiming gold left of the table and restoring the terrain so that the homeowners can farm and use if for grazing their livestock.
It’s a win-win deal on the series that debuted last year, as the veteran gold miner proved there is still gold in America’s abandoned mines.
This season, Dave is cranking up the volume and expanding his hunt for an even bigger payday in the historic lost mines of Montana.
In our exclusive talk with Turin ahead of the series, he reveals the details of his operation.
Some of the mines he revisits to comb through for left-behind ore are the final resting tombs of dead miners of yore who met their demise in an accident.
He even gives commentary and insight on his former Gold Rush peers Tony Beets, Todd Hoffman, and Parker Schnabel.
Plus, he explains why he chose Montana and the style of mining that he specializes in.
Who is Team Turin this season?
The Gold Rush veteran Dave Turin is doubling down on his brand new mining operation. His team includes Jason Sanchez, Nathan Clark, Chris Taylor, Casey Morgan, and Jesse Goins.
Last year, Gold Rush’s Dozer Dave proved there is still gold in America’s abandoned mines. Now in season 2, Dave heads to the historic lost mines of Montana.
With more than 3,500 abandoned mines in the Treasure State, Dave knows there’s still gold. But finding it will require him to uncover the history and decode the land like never before.
The stakes are high: Dave has set a gold target of 400 ounces this year ($600,000 at today’s price) with his crew entrusting his ability to find gold by becoming partners with him.
Exclusive interview with Dave Turin:
Monsters & Critics: Why did you select Montana to season and how many mines are there that are ripe to be re-combed?
Dave Turin: That’s a good question. We did our research and, according to the Montana State Department of Natural Resources, and I think there’s a Department of Geology, there’s 3500 abandoned mines in Montana.
It is one of the biggest mining states. Obviously, Nevada produces more gold than any of the other states, but I think Montana’s probably the third or fourth-largest gold producing.
There are so many mines that have been abandoned. Two of my crew are from Montana, Jason Sanchez, and Jesse Goins, both live in Montana, and that’s how I got started looking around.
I met another geologist that was helping me go out, and inspect, and investigate, and prospect on some of these old abandoned mines. And then it just started snowballing.
We would go from one to another. Then other people would find out that I’m out prospecting and they’d send me an email or call me and say, “Look, come look at this one.” And it just became… I mean, hundreds. I’ll bet you I looked at 20 or 30 different mines in Montana.
And then you’ve got to start narrowing them down.
There’s obvious first questions that you ask, “Are there permits? Is there sufficient water?” There’s just a lot of initial questions, and you start weeding out the ones that aren’t going to work, and eventually, we found a handful of them that were going to work.
M&C: What is the biggest reason that you have found that people abandon a mine that has been producing gold? It’s not in human nature to leave money on the table. People are a little bit greedy…
Dave Turin: There’s two different styles of mining. One is underground, hard rock mining, where you tunnel in, and what you’re looking for is the source of the gold.
What we do is placer mining. Mother Nature, the environment, water, and gravity have removed the gold from that mountain and put it into streams, and that’s what we do as placer miners.
For a placer miner to leave gold, the most logical answer for a placer miner to leave gold is that it wasn’t enough. The other obvious reason for leaving gold is it was too difficult to get out.
For instance, the old-timers didn’t have equipment to go past 25 to 30 feet deep. Now with our new equipment, with hydraulic excavators, dozers, we can easily dig deep holes now.
That’s where we come in. We have to figure out why the old-timers left any gold, and where is it, and why they left it. Well, if it was too deep, now we’ve got an opportunity to get the gold that they left. If they left because it wasn’t enough, back then, 100 years ago, gold was at 25 to $30 an ounce.
We just hit $1600 an ounce. Now I can mine it and make money, whereas 100 years ago, it was getting too lean and they couldn’t make money. So those are the two reasons for a placer miner.
And then for these abandoned mines that are underground, what we found was that prior to World War II, the government shut down all gold mining, because it was unnecessary in the effort to win World War II.
So they pulled all these miners out of the gold mines and put them either fighting the war or doing work that would help us win the war, whether you’re building airplanes, or engines, or bombs, or whatever it was. A lot of these guys pulled out of the mines and they never returned.
I get a lot of families calling and emailing me, saying, “Look, my grandpa had this and he passed away. We don’t know what we have.” And as you start doing the research, I’ll bet you close to 40 to 50% of these were active up until the ’30s and ’40s.
And then, boom, they just shut down. A lot of them, I believe, [because] it was because of World War II. Then life changes after they came back from the war.
The other fun part about those is that what we found is…say you’re anticipating going off to war, and you know you want to return, so a lot of these guys would take the best ore, the best gold, and hide it so that when they came back, they could jump-start life.
And they’d have a jump, because now then they could make money right off the start and get a new lease on life.
Well, a lot of them never returned, and that’s the fun part that we found about some of these underground mines was that a lot of the good ore is sitting right on the front edge [of these mine tunnels].
M&C: Are any of these mines that you have encountered, are they tombs? Have people lost their lives in them?
Dave Turin: Oh gosh, yes. Yes. In fact, I’ll tell you a perfect example. We were looking at one, and it’s in Montana, and it’s an underground mine.
We were looking at the tailings on the front edge, because, again, 100 years ago they needed a certain value of amount, say dollars per yard of material they’re taking out. But that value now, for me, is a lot less.
So what they’ve pushed out, and they felt wasn’t valuable enough, could be valuable enough to me. So we went and we tested these tailings piles, and we made a deal with the landowner.
She was the granddaughter of the guy that started the mine, and she got real emotional when we were trying to make a deal on getting to those tailings.
She told us, “I want somebody to go in and open the tunnels up.” And we’re like, “Well, why?” She goes, “Well, my grandfather lost his life in there. And we’d like to go in and, at least, retrieve the bones.”
And I was like, “Well, that’s not me…” Sorry, but I’m not going in there and risking my life to find grandpa’s bones.
But she was really emotional, and, in the end, after we tested it, it just wasn’t enough value for us to go and revive that mine. So we had to skip, pass over that one.
M&C: People contact you. They have a mine. How do you agree to work with them, or for them, or do they get a cut of what you find? What are the logistics financially for you as a miner with these people who have these abandoned mines?
Dave Turin: Yes. We have to work out a deal. Typically, we give them a percentage of what we mine.
We generally ask them, the landowner, to help us with the permit process, because if the permit has lapsed, in order to start up new permits now with the environmental laws and everything, it’s very rigorous, it’s very complex, and it costs a lot of money.
A lot of times we’ll ask the landowner to help us get the permits. And then once we get the permits, it’s all on me. I mean, the landowner really isn’t out any money. They’re just waiting for me to start production, and then give them royalties.
But one of the other good things for what we do is we’re doing placer mining, and placer mining is very visible. You go underground and all you’ve got is a portal. There’s a hole in the ground. But as a placer miner, we’re going up these stream beds.
Well, 100 years ago, those old-timers didn’t realize there’s going to be billions of people on this planet or millions of people living in Montana, and they didn’t care.
They just tore up that stream bed and left all the gravel sitting out, so you’ve got huge piles of gravel that’s unsightly and, quite frankly, doesn’t grow much because they put the topsoil at the bottom, all the big inert rocks at the top.
We come in, and we say to the landowner, “Look, when we’re done, we’re going to put the topsoil back. We’re going to reshape it, reclaim it, and you’re going to have a better piece of property than when we started.” And we were able to accomplish that.
So not only did this rancher that we worked with get royalties, he got money, he got gold. We gave him a lot better piece of land than when we started. So it’s really a partnership because we reclaimed. His land was much more valuable. He could graze cows.
There weren’t open rocks. So it really worked out to his benefit. And that’s one of the things I love about this business is that we can take the natural resources out, but we can reclaim his land and make it better than what the old-timers left him.
And that’s what I want to do is help people, and then actually put the ground back. I’m passionate about that.
M&C: You came up on Gold Rush. What’s your opinion about how the show has evolved and aged over time, just as someone who participated in the building of that series?
Dave Turin: I always like to keep it positive. Gold Rush gave me an amazing opportunity. What Todd Hoffman did for me, personally, Todd bounced around a lot. He didn’t stay put. But what it gave me an opportunity to do is travel the world, and learn how to mine. Every single year we were at a different spot.
If you look at Tony Beets – he has been up on Paradise Hill for 40, 45 years, and he’s a very good miner. He knows how to mine that ground. Parker’s been out there mining Scribner Creek, and he’s been there for, probably, eight or nine years in a row.
For Todd to bounce around as many times, it taught me how to mine, and problem solve, and troubleshoot in different areas. I felt I became a much better miner in adverse conditions. I learned to adapt. I learned to be able to read ground and to figure out how to move dirt in some of the worst places on this planet.
And it is because the easy gold is gone, and all the gold is really in difficult areas. It didn’t make the best of TV or the best profitable gold mining, but it taught me how to adapt and gold mine in other areas.
The show is still doing well. Parker and Tony seem to be getting a lot of gold, so that’s fun. People love to see Parker pulling thousands of ounces out of the ground. I watch it occasionally and I look and I go… wow.
And people don’t realize how amazing it is for a young man, like Parker, to pull thousands of ounces out of the ground, because I’ve done it, and I’m experienced. And that young man’s doing it.
It’s amazing to me. It is.
Gold Rush Dave Turin’s Lost Mine airs Friday, beginning Feb 21 at 9 pm on Discovery.