'Gold Rush: Alaska' mines on Porcupine Creek shut down temporarily (VIDEO)

Mechele R. Dillard's picture

Reality came to Porcupine Creek when two of the mines from the Discovery Channel series Gold Rush found themselves on the receiving end of a long list of complaints from the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration in August.

Reality hit the Gold Rush Porcupine Creek gold mines hard in August, when the two mines were closed temporarily due to failing to meet federal training requirements.

According to the Anchorage Daily News (ADN), the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) issued citations and compliance orders against the Big Nugget Mine, owned by John Schnabel and managed by his grandson Parker Schnabel, and the Jim Nail Placer Mine, operated by “Dakota” Fred Hurt, that resulted in the mines being closed temporarily. In total, 13 citations and two compliance orders were issued against the mines, both featured on the Discovery Channel reality series, Gold Rush.

RELATED: 'Gold Rush: Alaska': John Schnabel, not the Hoffmans, living the true American Dream

“Citations,” a spokesman for MSHA told ADN, usually refer to potential dangers and hazards, while “compliance orders” are more serious. The inspections by MSHA were conducted at the mines between Aug. 4 and 8, 2011. By Aug. 23, four of eight complaints directed toward the Big Nugget mine had been resolved, and the mine was allowed to begin operations again. One of seven of the complaints directed toward the Jim Nail Placer Mine were resolved by that date, and mining resumed there, as well, ADN reported.

Complaints against the Big Nugget Mine included violations pertaining to traffic signs warning of hazardous conditions; berms and guardrails; emergency firefighting drills; quarterly employment reports; insulation and fitting of power wires; training plans; and scaffolding. Complaints against the Jim Nail Placer Mine included safe means of access; housekeeping; arrangements for emergency medical assistance; emergency firefighting drills; and training plans.

Of the total complaints, MSHA deemed 10 of the 15 (13 citations, two compliance orders) “significant and substantial” or “reasonably likely to cause an injury severe enough to cause loss of time from work.” However, Parker Schnabel told ADN that he did not agree with the complaints filed against the mine.

"It's ridiculous for a mine with three employees to be held to the same safety standards as a Greens Creek or Red Dog that have hundreds of employees," Schnabel said. Schnabel also indicated that he was sure that the television exposure of the Big Nugget and Jim Nail Placer Mines brought them to the attention of regulators, resulting in the inspections. "We've been operating 25 years and never had a (federal) inspection," he said.

UPDATE: 'Gold Rush: Alaska' ends season with broken machines and no gold (VIDEO)

ADN reported that the compliance orders issued were in reference to a federal requirement that miners receive at least 24 hours of safety and related procedures training. This training is to include firefighting, self-rescue, hazard recognition, explosives and first aid. At the time of the ADN report, on Aug. 23, 2011, Parker Schnabel confirmed that he and the employees of the Big Nugget mine had completed 16 hours of classroom training in a State of Alaska safety course.

The Discovery Channel’s Gold Rush airs Fridays at 9 p.m. (ET).

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Video: Discovery Channel, Gold Rush


Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
well they got to get there hands in the pot to.its them union babys they got to have it there way .should have seen that one coming. msha my butt gold diggers out of your pockets.25yrs never seen msha they just want on tv to show their dumb asses

Submitted by jason Michardi (not verified) on
these mines are in the middle of know where, what gives the state or federal government the right to tell us we are unsafe. Im sorry but these government officials should take a second and realize that the american people pay there wages not the government. these are hard working Americans trying to make there own way. if I want to dig a hole on the side of a hill looking for gold , thats my choice if its unsafe , i made that decision and i will live and die with it. the only reason the government is stepping in is to tax and fine . this is just another sad example of whats happening with our rights and the attack on our constitution. when a government starts to tell you what to do , we are not free. wake up Americans he time has come to make a choice

Submitted by Danny (not verified) on
Your right..if you were the one digging the hole..your life is in your hands. But, those mines have more than one worker on it. If one worker does something stupid, people can get hurt and or killed. Heavy machinery, explosives and remote location is what makes mines dangerous and wouldn't you want the man working next to you know what to do if you flip a dozer and your pinned??. What if one of your workers die?? Are you going to support that mans family? What is going to happen is that your going to be sued. not to metion that your mine will get a rep for being a widowmaker and therefore no one will work for you unless you pay them a really good wage. Well I can guess you can always work all the machines yourself. Safety rules exist for a reason. The fed regulations exist so that both large and small companies behave themselves. If you can't see the reasoning behind that..then just ignore what i said and go mine

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
Well you know what your getting into when you sign up. You have the right to quit unlike our soldiers who risk their lives for dumb decisions our government makes. Who regulates them? All companies that are looking for loopholes are gonna find them whether or not their are rules in place. Cant regulate everything but they damn sure are trying.

Submitted by AnonymousThom (not verified) on
Its getting to be the same ole BS over and over again. The government flunkies need to butt out and let people willing and able support their families. These men are good, hard working, God Fearing Americans "Let it be" Why is it that our Lefty Government can`t see that?

Submitted by Miner Nate (not verified) on
A lot of these comments are very ignorant. I work in the mining industry and enjoy watching this show. My first thought watching for the first time was that these guys are just begging for an inspection from MSHA. Every regulation in 30CFR was written in blood and every regulation is written in order to protect miners from unsafe working conditions. As a miner I am glad that MSHA is there, otherwise many mines would operate with a reckless disregard to human life (see China). You people that are not miners that comment on here like you know what it's like to work in this industry just because you saw a TV show about should just shut up and quit making yourselves look like complete idiots.

Submitted by Jamesb (not verified) on
There is nothing idiotic about wanting to be free. Maybe you want to keep letting the government step on your rights but you being a miner doesn't make you the only person qualified to voice their opinion.

Submitted by Sitemaster2012 (not verified) on
We are independents politically (my wife and me) but we are fully in support of the current Republican campaign to reign in regulation that is giving foreign countries a huge advantage over U.S. companies and especially entrepreneurs like gold miners, farmers and others. Regulation is getting ridiculous.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
There is no doubt that the only reason the inspectors were there is because of the show but as for the comments that you should be able to do whatever you want on your owner property with no safety regulations well that is just plain ignorant. First if you have no insurance I have to pay for the helicopter to get you to the hospital, I have to pay someone to investigate what happened, if your stupid a*s dies I have to pay your wife and kids welfare. Now in case you haven't noticed both mining camps are not just 1 person and unless you are really stupid you have to realize there is an entire production crew at each camp that are in harms way. I am sure the state would have left them alone with just a pair of family members at each camp but when you add a bunch of television crews it changes everything.


Add new comment