On The Set of Gold Rush, Product Placement and Productivity Go Hand in Hand.
By Jimmy Siler
This edition of Quarry Stories is actually an outside contribution, but it is worth noting, I have my own Gold Rush story. At the 2013 AGG1 Show, I met Parker Schnabel and “Dozer Dave” Turin at a rooftop reception in San Antonio. The sponsor of the event, KPI-JCI, had an instant camera set up and a variety of hats available so you could take goofy photos. We got a photo with Dozer Dave, who was clearly having too much fun. But when I asked whether the equipment they used was for real or props, he got very serious. “It’s all real, and it has to work,” he told me. “There is too much at stake.” Following is Jimmy Siler’s story. – Mark Kuhar
During the fourth season of Discovery Channel’s Gold Rush, which aired in October 2013, I had the unique opportunity to appear on the show when one of its stars, 19-year-old Parker Schnabel, opted to try Major Wire’s Flex-Mat 3
High-Performance Screen Media to help with his wash plant’s throughput challenges. By the time the season wrapped up, Flex-Mat 3 had helped Parker more than double his gold production in just six weeks from the time they installed the new screen media.
My first involvement with Parker and Gold Rush actually came about in the spring of 2013, when I got a phone call from Chris Gerondale at Construction Machinery Industrial (CMI) in Alaska. Chris said he had known Parker and his dad all his life, and he told me they were asking about “this product, Flex-Mat 3.” They wanted to know if it could help them with production up at Parker’s gold mine at Scribner Creek (in the Klondike region of Yukon Territory, near the Alaska border).
I called Parker, and we talked about his throughput issues on his wash screen and what Flex-Mat 3 could do to help him. We discussed how the screen media’s increase in open area helps increase production.
Parker came down to AGG1 in San Antonio, and I showed him the product. Once he saw it, he really understood how the independently vibrating wires work on Flex-Mat 3, accelerating stratification and eliminating blinding and pegging, and he thought it could help him with his throughput problems.
He liked the self-cleaning abilities of it, and the quality of the OptimumWire itself. He wanted to try it out. At that point, I called top management at Major Wire, and told them, “This will be more than a simple installation. Flex-Mat 3 would be on Discovery Channel’s Gold Rush – it’s national television. Do we want to get involved?” They agreed that we should go, and I got ready.
Off to the Klondike
My first trip up to Scribner Creek was in June 2013. I was taking Flex-Mat 3 Double-Wire and Series D Tensioned screen media for Parker’s “Little Blue” wash plant. I didn’t know what to expect. I mean, I was headed to the Arctic Circle! I flew into Whitehorse in the Yukon Territory. I rented a truck, waited for the Flex-Mat 3 panels to come in, and loaded up.
The map didn’t show any cities or towns until you got to Dawson City in the Yukon – about 330 miles (532 km) to the northwest. I bought food, water and a tent in Whitehorse. I also bought some 5-gal. gas jugs and filled them with gas. I ended up having to break into all of them before I finished my journey because there wasn’t a single gas station along the way.
The mine itself was another 2.5 hours north of Dawson City, on one of the most treacherous gravel and dirt mountain roads I’ve ever traveled. It was a very dangerous journey getting there. I have no idea how they got the equipment up there.
When I finally got up to the mine, no one was there. But I figured they would have to come back eventually. So I set up my tent, ate my food, drank my water and waited. I knew I was in the wilderness, but nothing prepared me for that first morning when I woke up and walked out of my tent, and there was a huge black bear, staring at me from just a few yards away.
I backed slowly into my tent, and luckily he meandered off – because that tent wouldn’t have been any protection if he had been more interested in me! Two days later, when everyone returned to the site, I found out they had shut down for a Canadian holiday.
Living in Tents
Jimmy Siler (left) and Parker Schnabel pan for gold.
There at Scribner Creek, most of the guys were living in tents. The guys who were smart brought travel trailers with them – but that couldn’t have been easy, given the conditions getting up there. There also were some office trailers there, which they could cook in, as well. But they used makeshift pumps to pull water out of the creek for taking showers and washing clothes. Living conditions were pretty brutal during the mining season.
The mosquitoes were legendary. They’re bigger than eagles! There actually are signs posted in the Yukon and Alaska that show mosquitoes picking people up and taking them away. And they are all over you. They’re concentrated – in swarms. You can’t talk without eating them.
Now, I had taken bug dope (spray) with me. I learned the importance of that when I was in the military. I took several cans, and the film crew fell in love with me. They’re all out of London. They really are city slickers. They had screens over their faces, trying to keep the mosquitoes out. I sprayed them all down, and they loved me after that.
They were only getting 60 yd. per hour using woven wire, but they got 115 yd. per hour using Flex Mat 3.
We installed the Flex-Mat 3 on Little Blue while I was there. We used the Double-Wire with 1½-in. openings on the top deck and Series D with 3/8-in. openings on the bottom deck. The Flex-Mat 3 was replacing woven wire with 2-in. openings on the top deck and ½-in. openings on the bottom deck. Parker started running it, and I left after four days.
Parker had only been getting 60 yd. per hour using woven wire. With the Flex-Mat 3, he was getting 115 yd. per hour, even with smaller openings. That was a 90 percent increase in throughput!
It all was going well until Parker tried to get more than 115 yd. per hour out of Little Blue. It literally shook the wash plant apart to the extent that it couldn’t be repaired. But up until then, he was getting more gold out of it than the previous owners had. At that point, Parker acquired the “Big Red” wash plant.
Fitting Big Red
Parker also wanted Flex-Mat 3 on Big Red, which was a newer 6-ft. x 16-ft., 2-deck machine. He told me he had 1½-in. modular polyurethane screen media on the top deck and 3/8-in. tensioned woven wire on the bottom deck. Management agreed that it would be a good way to show our Flex-Mat 3 Modular product, which is a newer, yet proven solution for achieving more throughput without replacing existing polyurethane and rubber framing systems.
For this trip, which took place in August, I knew what to expect, and I was a lot more relaxed mentally. I still took all of the stuff I had taken on my first trip – food, water, extra gas.
We installed the Flex-Mat 3 Modular Series D with 1¼-in. openings on Big Red’s top deck and Flex-Mat 3 Tensioned Series D with 3/8-in. openings on the bottom deck. And that was when Parker really started getting serious production. From the beginning of the season until we brought out Flex-Mat 3 in August – first with Little Blue and then with Big Red over four months – Parker had only produced 489 oz. of gold. His goal was 800 oz. Once we installed the Flex-Mat 3 on Big Red, production went to a total of 1,029 oz. in just six weeks. They more than doubled the production in less than half the time.
At the time that episode was filmed, Parker could tell he was getting more production through the plant. In fact, Big Red ultimately was running between 137 yd. per hour and 145 yd. per hour with the Flex-Mat 3, which is an average of 40 percent faster than it was running before (at 100 yd. per hour). But he didn’t know what the actual gold production was.
Flex-Mat 3 Stands Out
Major Wire and Flex-Mat 3 really stood out on the show from a production standpoint. Parker showed it. He proved it. The increase in production you can get – 32 million people saw it happen. They saw what he did before, and they saw what he could do afterward. Parker proved on national television that Flex-Mat 3 increases production.
Season 5 of Gold Rush is began airing October 2014. Will Major Wire and Flex-Mat 3 play a part in the next season? Will I get to battle bears and mosquitoes and treacherous roads in the Northwest again? I’m not telling. You’ll just have to tune in to find out.
Jimmy Siler is Major Wire’s dealer development manager.