Famous for his gold mining adventures in “Gold Rush,” Todd Hoffman returned in a new series on Discovery Channel, called “Hoffman Family Gold.” In season two, Todd along with his father Jack, and son Hunter, continue their search for gold in Alaska’s Mammoth Valley Mine. The bond between father and son was tested, as Hunter expressed a desire to run his own wash plant.

Background on the Hoffmans and “Gold Rush”

With the economy down, Todd and Jack were considering putting their airport in Sandy, Oregon up for sale. When they realized that the price of gold was really high at that time, they decided to try their luck in gold mining instead. It was a risky move, because Jack was the only one with experience, and he’d faced financial difficulties in the past through prospecting for gold.

Todd gathered some friends who were also looking to change their fortunes, and they all headed to Alaska, where they leased a gold claim owned by Jack’s old mining friend, Earle Foster, in Porcupine Creek. They didn’t have much expertise, or any detailed plans, but they were filled with excitement and enthusiasm.

This was how the concept of the “Gold Rush” began. Todd pitched the idea to different television networks, and eventually teamed up with the Discovery Channel. The reality series premiered in 2010, and quickly gained a huge audience, averaging over three million viewers. Subsequent seasons showcased the mining adventures of other miners too, such as Parker Schnabel, Fred Hurt, Tony Beets, and Rick Ness.

The Hoffmans had a rough start, but eventually did well in getting the gold. However, it came at a price; Todd lost some friends, and had relationship issues with his son, Hunter – time came when he realized that they lost their focus as a family. Their gold mining journey ended in 2018 after eight seasons, and they went back home to Oregon to heal.

Getting his own show – “Hoffman Family Gold”

Todd Hoffman was a key figure in “Gold Rush,” so it was only a matter of time before he would return to the small screen with his own reality show, called “Hoffman Family Gold.” It premiered on 25 March 2022 – seemingly, Todd, Jack and Hunter never lost that itch for mining, so when the opportunity came to resume gold mining, they grabbed it.

Over the years that the Hoffmans had been mining, they’d been looking for a mine that was rich and hadn’t been picked through, and believed that they’d found it in Mammoth Valley Mine. It was in the Seward Peninsula of Alaska, 80 miles from Nome, making them totally off the grid. Their first season was a disaster, as they faced many challenges such as an excavator leaking oil, a fuel truck blowing its engine, and a torque converter overheating, but they overcame all these and achieved their goal of producing around 300 ounces of gold in seven weeks, to get a multi-year lease on a gold claim.

Season two premiere of “Hoffman Family Gold”

Todd Hoffman was confident that their second season would be different from the first one; they already knew that the gold was right beneath their feet. He went all out, putting everything on the line; he said that this seemed like going to war with his ‘killer crew,’ the best one in the field as his army; it consisted of his sons Hunter and Hudson “Cub” Hoffman, Andy Spinks and his son Dakota, and Sparky Turner along with his experts, Micah “Framer” Johnston and Rob “Tater” Rolph. The wash plant, which he called the ‘Holy Roller,’ was the tank. They were banking on it to bring in the gold, said to be the perfect size and design for the mine’s tough clay-rich soil.

Transportation and equipment costs were at $750,000 while labor and fuel expensets were at $150,000 each. The total was over $1 million for this venture, so to cover all, he had to mine at least 600 ounces of gold, with the price of gold at $1,750 per ounce at that time. Naturally, he was hoping not just to break even, so the goal was to produce 1,000 ounces of gold, which was worth $1750 million; failing to do this would leave him in financial ruin. This meant averaging 90 ounces of gold per week, worth around $140,000. After meeting their goal, it would signal the end of their mining season, because Todd said that he didn’t want to overwork the Holy Roller and the rest of their machines.

What happened between father and son?

They were off to a good start as they were successful in getting over the first hurdle, which was bringing all those machines across the river; everything was going as planned. However, there was one thing he didn’t see coming – his son was becoming impatient and wanted to run his own washplant.

The strained relationship between father and son was quite evident in season two even after just a few episodes. It seemed that their previous conflicts over work-related matters remained unresolved, leading to further discord. Hunter, who was embarking on his 10th mining season, had long awaited the opportunity to assert his independence, and execute tasks in his own way. He complained that he and his father had contrasting styles on how they operated, and it was something they needed to address if they were to continue working together.

Prior to the start of the mining season, Hunter already had a conversation with his father to establish his expectations, which he said were non-negotiable, expressing his desire for increased responsibility, and a say in the mining operations, highlighting his extensive experience in mining since his father had brought him to the site at the age of 10, and every year since. He’d dedicated his summers to running machinery, while most kids were playing with friends. Hunter believed he brought value to the team, and declared that he never wanted to win as badly as he wanted at that moment. He gave his 100% to the challenge.

Here are some of the things that went down between father and son:

Hunter walked out on his dad

Todd imposed a 72-hour deadline to make the processing plant operational, requiring the removal of the big trommel called the Hot Mess before getting the Holy Roller into position – father and son held differing opinions on the best approach to accomplish this task. Hunter found it frustrating when his father disregarded his input, or dismissed it. Despite his frustration, Hunter maintained his composure and controlled his emotions, as he said that this was the only thing he could control. The originally projected three-hour project stretched into a full day, with Todd eventually yielding to his son’s advice after his own method proved unsuccessful. At one point, Hunter walked out on his father, and Todd acknowledged the challenges of working with Hunter, stating that they argued and fought frequently.

Tried to resolve issues

Hunter initiated a conversation with his father and Andy Spinks, Todd’s right-hand man. He explained that whenever he expressed his opinions, Todd failed to listen and took things negatively, regarding it as having a “bad attitude.” True enough, Todd considered it as being disrespectful and that this kind of behavior was a ‘cancer’ to the camp. Obviously, getting this response from his father didn’t sit well with Hunter. Todd even said that while it might be true that he didn’t listen, at least no one accused him of being a ‘cancer’ to their operation, because he would get up each day, bringing positivity to the group. Hunter tried to explain to him how being negative was different from expressing what he thought was the wrong way of doing things, especially if he noticed that they were committing the same mistakes from the past.

Requested to run his own operation

What Hunter really wanted was for his father to allow him room to grow and operate in his own way. He expressed that sometimes he felt that he had more responsibilities back when he was 14 than now when he’d become an adult. Hunter understood that he wouldn’t execute everything perfectly, but emphasized that he wanted the opportunity to learn from his own experiences. Todd was perhaps beginning to see where his son was coming from and agreed to grant Hunter more responsibility. However, when Hunter attempted to provide further input on camp operations, Todd abruptly halted him, cautioning him against pushing the matter. Hunter responded by questioning whether his presence was even wanted. Todd acknowledged his son’s contributions to the camp, but wished for him to become less volatile and more of a team player. Hunter tried to explain that he was just passionate about their work. During a confessional, Todd acknowledged Hunter’s exceptional talent, but expressed reservations about his readiness.

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Felt he was being set up to fail

Hunter was given the task to set up the pump that would draw water from a large pond to fill a water circuit leading to the Holy Roller; however, just when he and another crew member were about to be done, they were told that their set-up might not work. It appeared to Hunter that they were setting him up for failure, further intensifying his frustration.

Advice from grandfather Jack

Needing assurance and guidance, Hunter went to his grandfather Jack, and told him of his struggles with Todd. He wanted to have a good relationship with his father, but it was getting to be more difficult each day – he didn’t want to resent working side by side with his father. Jack empathized with Hunter, acknowledging Todd’s reluctance to let go. However, he affirmed his grandson’s maturity, stating, ‘You grew up. You’re your own man. You can take charge right now. You’re not second rate. You’re number one. I think you know what you need to do.’ It was such a relief for Hunter to hear his granddad say all that, and have his approval.

Talked privately with Todd

Hunter went to have another talk with Todd, but this time, it was just the two of them in the room. He told his father that in all the years that he worked under him, he always respected him. However, he felt that the boss-employee relationship was slowly destroying their father-son relationship, and he didn’t want that. He thought it best that they didn’t work together.

Todd was aware that Hunter might think that he wasn’t proud of him, or he had no respect for him because of their disagreements at work, and felt bad about that. He assured his son that it was not the case, and told him that he loved him. Hunter told him that the issue had nothing to do with love. What he was asking for was a chance to run his own wash plant and have his own people. He was somewhat hoping that the years he spent working at the site should lead to this moment, however, he was beginning to wonder if his dad would ever pass the reigns to him.

It appeared to Todd that Hunter’s mind was made up, so he explained some things to his son. He said that the reason he didn’t have more people working at the site was because he couldn’t afford it. Hunter then proposed to set up two plants sharing the same pond and same machines, and just get as much paydirt as they could.

Todd gave in to his son’s request

Todd was taken by surprise at how much Hunter didn’t want to work with him. He said that being a father was tough because he wanted to protect his kids not just from the world, but also from themselves. He was worried about how Hunter would handle it if things turned badly but knew that if he held his son back, Hunter would resent him for it. Jack said that this decision would help improve the relationship between father and son. Besides, if they were running two plants, they had a better chance of hitting their goal.

At a meeting, Todd told everyone about this development. They knew that this would make things more difficult as they would be stretched too thin. It seemed that some of the guys weren’t too keen on this idea, based on their facial expressions, but they never voiced it, after all, it concerned their boss and his son. Hunter was committed to running his own plant. Before Todd gave his permission, he told him that the minute this new direction that the camp was taking became a problem, he would pull the plug on it – Hunter agreed to this deal.

Father and son continued to clash

The new wash plant called the Black Pearl that Hunter acquired for his operation was quite heavy, at 80,000 lbs. They had to dismantle it into three parts to transport it across the bridge to reach the site, and reassemble it. This was a huge undertaking, and with the safety of the crew and his money on the line, Todd made sure he was on top of things when they were unloading it on the site. He told his son that this was nothing personal, but Hunter said that Todd made him feel stupid and disrespected with the way he took over. Both apologized for how they reacted, and knew that they needed to communicate better.

While Hunter was busy setting up his wash plant, the Holy Roller worked fine and delivered 76 ounces of gold worth just about $125,000 to $130,000, which wasn’t bad for Todd’s crew for their first cleanup. The operation of the Holy Roller was stalled, as the crew had to deal with the intense rain that threatened to flood the mine and cause them to lose their paydirt, so their second cleanup only produced 39 ounces of gold.

As they fell short of their weekly goal for two weeks in a row, Todd needed the Black Pearl to be up and running. For two wash plants to run at the same time, it was crucial that they were at the right spots for maximum efficiency. The sluices had to share the same drainage system for the water runoff from the wash plants. However, there was some miscommunication on the placement of the Black Pearl’s sluice box, that caused the two to clash again, with Todd telling his son not to call him a liar. He kept insisting that he didn’t step on anybody’s toes, which Hunter found incredulous, as he felt that his father was doing that every step of the way.

On their third week, they got 83 ounces of gold, which meant they had to have more the following week. Hunter and his crew were absent during the weigh-in, however, Hunter did say that he understood that his father was under a lot of stress, and that he was tired of fighting with him. Despite what happened, he said that he would make sure that the Black Pearl would become operational.

It remains to be seen if the Black Pearl will help the Hoffmans in reaching their goal, and if Todd and his son Hunter’s relationship will survive the challenges they will face for the rest of the mining season.

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