Supporter Spotlight: Monica Beets - September 2021
“Supporter Spotlight” features Canadians with a passion for Canada’s Natural Resource sector. Our spotlight this month is Monica Beets, Gold Miner and Canadian reality television personality on Discovery Channel’s “Gold Rush." Monica talks to us about her life as a gold miner in the Yukon.
Canada Action: Monica, thank you so much for taking the time today. You are one of the stars of “Gold Rush”, a show on the Discovery Channel that features the life of Gold Miners in the Yukon. You are the daughter of Tony Beets, a successful gold miner and as the story goes, your father placed you in front of a front-end loader when you were 12, told you to figure it out and said he would come to pick you up in an hour. At the age of 16 you were supervising an entire mining process on your own and by the age of 18 you were supervisor at the Paradise Hill Claim. Did you always think you were going to follow the family business?
Monica: Yes, from a really really young age. I spent all my summers at a camp with my dad. Mom had a job in town but she’d be out every weekend and I saw my siblings start working when they were twelve so I kind of knew that's where I was going. I was running around on equipment and playing on equipment when I was four, five years old and it was just something I always knew I was going to head towards.
I started work when I was 12 and I was taught “you work a man’s job you get a man's wage”. I was paid just as much as everybody else was. Well - when I was 12 years old I got 12$ an hour (she laughs), it was less than it is now! But starting at such a young age, it gave me a healthy appreciation for earning your own dollar and becoming your own person. My mom told me “you make your own money now, so if there's something you want you’re buying it”.
Working every summer allowed me to do a lot of things like buy my first car when I was fifteen. And yes - I went to University for one year and I had plans of trying something else but it wasn't what I wanted to do. I like running big equipment, I like cleaning gold and I like spending time with my family.
Canada Action: Your father was born in the Netherlands and moved to Canada in 1989 at the age of 30. He began working at Paradise Hill, located in the Klondike region of the Yukon, and he quickly founded his own gold mining company called Tamarack Mine. The claim is one of the most successful in the Klondike. Prior to arriving in Canada, he worked on the family farm. You and your family have worked very hard and made a successful living from natural resources. For people who live in urban areas, the thought of making a living off natural resources can sometimes seem like a very distant reality, yet in 2020, natural resources accounted for 1,9 million jobs in Canada, including 392k jobs in minerals and metals. How important are natural resources for the many families that live in regions like the Yukon?
Monica: There are three main businesses in the Yukon and that's government, tourism and mining. With covid-19, tourism didn’t generate any business and the government doesn't really bring in money. So think that for the first time in a lot of years people kind of realized that these construction jobs, mining jobs, mineral jobs are all very important to our economy. We get taken for granted quite a bit and now there's an actual appreciation happening. We're so rural up here in the Yukon, we have some farms and are able to grow some things but it's not enough to sustain us; everything we have gets trucked up. Our fuel, our food… everything. And I think that as terrible as this pandemic has been, it's made people realize that hey - truck drivers, construction workers… These people are actually really important!
Canada Action: It’s a silver lining!
Canada Action: As far as we can remember, gold has been the medium of exchange for many civilizations. Between 1866 and 1899 it is said that an estimated 100k prospectors migrated to the Klondike region in search of gold. The gold rush has been portrayed in various movies and literature. Due to this, when we think of Gold mining, we often think of an old man by a river with a pan shaking it around. And although yes, panning is something that is done by many enthusiasts, modern gold mining is a completely different process. On a global scale, Canada ranks 5th in terms of gold production. What does Canada do differently when it comes to Gold mining?
Monica: I can only speak for placer mining, but a lot of the businesses in the Yukon, or a lot of the gold mining companies, they're all family-run. There are a couple of big ones but a lot of the placer mines, hard rock miners, they’re all family businesses. My parents have been mining for 37 years. There’s a guy up the creek whose dad’s dad started his mine... it's all family-run. And we’ve got the same rules and have to follow the same standards as everybody else if not more because when we put our water back into the creek it has to be of a better quality than what we got it.
Canada Action: Really?!
Monica: Well, it’s what my father always says!
Canada Action: Well that’s a great standard!
Canada Action: You have been a miner your entire adult life. What are some of the difficulties miners often face? What are some of the positive sides of being a miner?
Monica: One of the hard things is that since I work for my parents sometimes there’s this idea that I am in the position that I’m in because I am their daughter. But I've been mining for 15 plus years and I've run every piece of equipment. I know how to do things. And sometimes these young bucks come in and they think they know everything (she laughs). But I'm also really blessed to live in Dawson City where miners are a little bit more celebrated, whereas in Whitehorse it’s a little bit more of a government town and you’re kind of looked down on for being in construction. We don't get a pension, we don't get any benefits. Everything we have we worked for. And it’s nice because we're allowed a certain amount of freedom up here. It's not as hard as Alberta or Ontario. We are a little bit more lenient and there’s very few places now where you can start work at a young age and run large pieces of equipment that are four or five times your size. It's definitely afforded me a lot of luxuries in life. I work my butt off for 7 months out of the year and then I have five months to relax.
Canada Action: On the show “Gold Rush”, you have become quite popular for your assertive management style when working with men twice your age. In 2017, you recruited an all female team to work with you. A 2020 report shows that just 16% of directors at mining companies were women. When we take a look at the work being done on the ground, what is it like to be a woman in a male dominated industry?
Monica: I find being a woman in this male-dominated industry you always have to prove yourself and it doesn't matter how long you've been there or how many things you run. You always have to explain why you're doing it the way you're going to be doing it or you just have to be really rude (she laughs). We like hiring female operators because they seem to be a bit easier on the equipment. We've also found that generally women will keep the equipment cleaner; we have brooms in all the equipment and the women always sweep out the floor and guys will sit there and twiddle their thumbs. But it's hard sometimes.
Canada Action: Do you think there’s progress that’s been made? You’ve been doing it forever, you’ve seen more women get hired. Do you feel like we’re headed in the right direction? Are you hopeful?
Monica: I definitely have seen more women getting hired in the Yukon in general. I've got family and friends who have been hiring or hired out to other companies and they work just as hard as men. So many women in the Yukon work in mining, it’s amazing. And I am finding the younger generation is more accepting.
Canada Action: Gold is a precious metal most commonly used for jewellery, which accounts for almost half of global demand. Approximately 7.5% of the demand for gold is for use in technology applications, mostly as a component of micro-circuitry, in a range of electronic products like computer chips and circuit boards.
It is mined in nine Canadian provinces and territories and is Canada's most valuable mined mineral, with a production value of $10.3 billion in 2019. In 2019, the value of Canadian gold exports was $22.3 billion. What does the future of gold mining look like in Canada? What can we expect in the next 5-10 years?
Monica: I think gold mining is going to slow down because of the way the new rules and regulations are headed and how difficult things are becoming. I think a lot of the smaller businesses are going to be forced to shut down and it'll only be big companies that can mine. I can really only speak for the Yukon but it’s getting harder and harder to get licensing. It's all too much government and paperwork. And then, it's also getting harder and harder to find people, maybe because not everyone wants to work so hard for 7 months. Which I can understand. When I spent my formative years working 12-hour days, 6 days on one day off - you don't really have much of a life that way and I'm sure a lot of people don’t like or want that life. But there are some great sides to it. I save a good chunk of what I bring in to put into my rrsp’s, or put into something that's going to come back for me.
Canada Action: Today mining in Canada is known around the world for its safety and environmental leadership as well as protection and energy efficiency. I saw a video of a high tech dredge in the United States that didn’t require the use of any chemicals. Are there any new technologies we can look forward to in gold mining?
Monica: Well we don’t have many new technologies in the Yukon. We’re just now getting new equipment that has tier 3 and tier 4 emissions quality. So that’s definitely something we look forward to up here.
Canada Action: What does the future hold for Monica Beets?
Monica: I'll probably keep working for my parents at least until Gold Rush ends and I don't really see myself leaving after that. Gold Rush is Discovery’s number one show or at least it was for the last couple years so I could see us getting a few more seasons. So I'll ride it out because it’s good for the local economy here in Dawson City and it's good for myself personally because it’s afforded me a lifestyle that I wouldn’t have otherwise. I'll also probably continue to grow my little family, continue working and I would love to travel again!
Canada Action: Is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers?
Monica: I think the world is soon going to realize how important farmers, natural resources and minerals are. Without truck driver's you don't have food in your grocery store. Without farmers you don't have food on your table. Without miners there are a lot of things you don’t have. Gold is mostly for jewellery, yes, but that's what runs your smartphone. And all of these natural resources that are pulled from the ground? We put the ground back. Maybe not farming to a certain extent but we have to reclaim the land. People in urban cities like to look down on us and they don’t realize that you'll never reclaim a city you've cemented over. It's never coming back and you'll never have trees there. We dig up a 1000x1000 foot cut and next month, if we don't touch it, it'll be covered. We always have to reclaim our land and I wish people knew that.
Canada Action: Monica, it’s been a pleasure. Thank you so much for your time today.
Monica: Thank you!
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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