'Jungle Gold' Stars on Season Two: 'Expect the Unexpected' (Video)
Gold miners George Wright and Scott Lomu sit down with THR to talk about the mistakes they tried not to repeat and why they keep returning to Ghana despite the life-or-death stakes.
Gold miners Scott Lomu and George Wright are back in Ghana in season two of Discovery Channel's Jungle Gold. But the duo promise that viewers won't be seeing anything similar to what's happened before.
"Expect the unexpected," Lomu says during a visit to The Hollywood Reporter's video lounge. "Some of the stuff that's coming up this season, we like to think has probably never been shown on TV. George and I have been gone for a long time -- about three and a half years now -- and we thought we had seen everything, and that's just not the case. The stuff that we run into this time is mind-boggling."
Wright adds that this season is "more amped up and more things happen."
"I mean, honestly, we wish our show was very boring," he says. "That's what we wished is that our show would be -- very calm, and you could play classical music as Scott and I just stack bricks of gold in our tents in the middle of the jungle -- that’s what we wish was Jungle Gold. But, that’s not Jungle Gold. … People will have to see it to believe it. Us even telling you about it now, nobody would even believe it."
While the duo are hesitant to reveal too much, they did say that, this time around, they were more hands-on and more involved with the locals. They also learned from their mistakes this time around -- they've been duped by people who they believed were their partners in the past, including having their equipment sold out from under them -- and this time they went to Ghana with more of a game plan and less of an urgency to rush through their work.
"We tested like crazy this time," Lomu says. "We made sure that before we started digging and wasting time and energy, we made sure that there was a lot of gold under the ground. You're going to see a lot of that this time around. We did things very, very different. Again, we learned a lot of expensive lessons last time around, and we hope we've learned from them. You'll see that we thought things through a little bit better."
What we do know for sure about season two, which premiered earlier this month, is that the pair face such obstacles as a notorious rainy season, armed militia, road blocks and the treacherous jungle. With such life-or-death stakes at play, why would they choose Ghana as their mining location?
"It’s this guy’s fault!" Wright quips, referring to Lomu. "I always point to him, and I don’t know if I should thank him or punch him in the face."
Replies Lomu: "Both are in order."
Essentially, the pair -- former high-roller real estate dealers -- took a big hit when the real estate market crashed in 2006. They also had invested in other small businesses that were hurt by the recession. At the same time, Lomu's father-in-law was working on a project to buy gold inexpensively in Africa and then bring it back home and sell it for a profit. Upon learning this, Lomu joined forces with a friend, Wally Macias, to attempt to do the same thing.
"And then Scott said, 'We need one more. We need a little bit of a money guy and somebody that’s just stupid enough to do it.' Then my phone rang!" quips Wright. (Macias died before the trio realized their dreams of striking it rich.)
Then, at some point, Lomu's father-in-law got scammed out of $1.5 million -- he put a down payment on some gold and watched it being loaded onto a plane only to find out later that it had been removed from the aircraft before it even took off.
"We got caught up in the middle of that and realized, 'You know what? We have to mine,'" Lomu says. "Everybody over there has a connection and can get you into the mining industry. At that point, we were like, 'Look, we’re here. We've got a little bit of money. Let’s do this.' Gold prices were just going through the roof, and we thought, 'Gosh, if we can just come up with the right equipment and the right partner, we can make money doing this.' That’s where it all began. That was two years before the cameras ever showed up, so it’s been interesting."
Adds Wright: "It's been hard and complicated. It's been a trial, but we caught that gold fever. There's something to be said about walking out to a seemingly ordinary piece of land, digging a hole anywhere between 10 feet and 20 feet deep, washing a pile of dirt and seeing that there’s gold there. We saw that and it changed everything."
Not only have they had to learn about the weather and soil conditions there, but they've also had to educate themselves about local customs -- and adjust their plans accordingly.
"For example, you're going to do an animal sacrifice and you're not going to work on Tuesdays because that offends the river goddess, which are two very real things," Wright says, pointing to the animal sacrifice seen in season one. "So, our plans don’t necessarily fit into what our environment and the culture over there allows.
With their losses in the real estate crash, Lomu and Wright face a $1 million-plus debt. Their aim is to mine enough gold to pay off their debts and provide a future for their families and for Macias' widow and family.
So do they find gold this season?
"We'll tell you this much – we're on the best site we've ever had with the best equipment we've ever had with having learned a lot of very expensive lessons," Lomu says. "I'm very happy with how we did things this time around. We'll leave it at that."
Jungle Gold airs at 10 p.m. Sundays on Discovery Channel.