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Ken Foy and Guillaume Brodeur are TV stars
"Yukon Gold" is a new reality show filmed around Dawson City during last year's mining season. The series, which follows four mining crews in their search for pay dirt, premiered earlier this month.
In that first episode, Al McGregor, or 'Big Al' as he's known in the show, battles equipment failure with his excavator, Bernie Kreft tries to teach his young sons how to mine, while Ken Foy and Guillaume Brodeur experience problems with their sluice machine. But by the end of the episode one of the teams is $250,000 richer.
"Yukon Gold" airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on the History Channel and will also air on the National Geographic Channel next year.
Foy, who has been mining on and off the past 20 years, said this past season was the toughest he's faced in his career.
"Some things were positive but on other fronts it was a summer we wanted to forget," he says.
For Foy, the most important factor in agreeing to be part of the show was that episodes reflected an accurate depiction of the job, without staged action or drama.
"Not once did they ask us to re-shoot anything," he says. "Really, the worst thing anyone could say is that we're acting."
Born in Saskatchewan, Foy started coming up to the Yukon in 1988 at age 14. His father worked with Stuart Schmidt Mining and Foy joined in, working alongside his dad for 10 years.
Now, Big Al works on the same land Foy once mined with his dad.
Foy left the mining sector for two seasons in the early 2000's and headed south, to Hawaii, where he ran a construction company. Business was good until the market crashed and his company went down with it.
He returned to the Yukon and now calls Beaver Creek home during the season. He's planning to stay at least another 10 years and has set his goals high for future seasons.
"The show isn't a contest," he says. "We can't sit on our gold, we've got to sell it every week to pay for expenses and keep the company going. So the show documents our struggles and the realities of the business. It's good work to film because each year is different, with different miners, mining in different areas. Each year brings something new."
With the first two episodes aired, Foy says reaction has been positive.
"Everyone's been excited about it, but most people are feeling sorry for me," he says, laughing. "They see the conditions we work in, each day, no matter what, and the challenges we face."
Foy admits he wasn't too keen on the idea at the start. The production company, Vancouver-based Paperny Entertainment, reached out to Foy and he says it took six emails before he read one. His mining partner, Guillaume Brodeur was into it from the start, as was Stuart Schmidt. Eventually Foy was convinced.
"I honestly thought their heart was in the right place," he says. "We made it clear that the mining comes first. Even my friends and family don't really know how much work goes into it, so for me to get the story out seemed so appealing."