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Cable TV show ignites modern-day Alaska Gold Rush

Alaska Dispatch
Bering Sea Gold photo

According to Diana Haecker of the Nome Nugget, the debut of the Discovery Channel’s “Bering Sea Gold” last month unleashed a torrent of phone calls to Nome city offices and other businesses. “Bering Sea Gold” is a popular reality TV show about miners who risk their lives to find ocean gold in the Bering Sea.

The Jan. 27 debut was watched by 3.6 million viewers, making it the highest-rated series launch in Discovery history.  Next week, 3.73 million viewers tuned in.

As a result, Nome officials faced a deluge of similar questions: What permits do we need to dredge for gold? Is there a mining camp? Can I buy a dredge up there? Can just anybody go and mine the beaches of Nome?

Nome 
city manager Josie Bahnke has been besieged by calls and she’s not alone. Kerwin Krause with the Alaska Department of Natural Resources told the Nome Nugget his department got a call every five minutes, especially on Mondays following the Friday evening show. “That kind of call volume is not normal. So far we received about 300 phone calls,” he said. “We’re telling people that there are no leases available now.”  

Krause has urged Nome city officials to prepare for a modern-day gold rush. Krause said that a DNR field office staffer is supposed to arrive this summer to guide new miners and make sure rules are obeyed. 
Krause and harbor master Joy Baker worry that berthing limitations for small dredges will cause headaches. Small dredges parked in the harbor need permits; even smaller dredges tied up at the east side of Snake River do not need permits for now.

Nome Gold Alaska Corporations business manager Mitch Erickson recommends newcomers visit Nome for a few weeks to see if they like the weather, the cost of living and the work. “Before you blow your wad, come here first and see if you like it,” Erickson told the Nome Nugget. “Don’t come here boom or bust.” Erickson also said successful miners should consider donating to the Food Bank or the Nome Volunteer Ambulance Department. “Give something back to the community,” he suggested.

In response to the deluge, Alaska Mining & Diving Supply has a page on the company website devoted to the surging interest. "Keep in mind that although shows like these are billed as reality shows, they are in fact not a true depiction of reality," it says. "This page seeks to inject some reality into the situation."