The Bunce family is giving the world Jade Fever
”We’re just a bunch of hillbillies mining for jade, crazy to begin with. We’re not doing this for TV—this is way we live our lives and it’s funny to some people,” said Claudia Bunce, star of Discovery Channel’s Jade Fever.
The season 2 finale of Jade Fever aired May 3 and filming for season three is set to begin later this month. It’s safe to say Jade Fever has captured the attention of Canada and the world beyond with their first-hand account of life as a jade miner in northern British Columbia. At the heart of the show is the bigger than life personality of Claudia Bunce who along with her husband, Robin, owns and operates the Cassiar Mountain Jade store and Dease Lake Jade Mining. She is also the unofficial mayor and mother of Jade City, a small tourist stop of a town started by Claudia’s father in the 1980s over 10 years after he began mining in the area.
Claudia’s family has been involved in the jade mining industry for over four decades and her passion for the stone began at a young age. “My dad started designing some of the jade pieces with the crew he was working with . . . and I remember seeing him making those and bringing them to the house and showing us what he was doing and I remember looking at the jade and the wood and just loving them. That was my first remembrance of loving the wood, rock, design and it just went crazy from there,” said Claudia. She has been designing her own pieces for the last 15 years following in her father’s footsteps and now one of her sons is becoming a carver and making pieces right in the store himself.
Despite the family’s rich history with jade mining, it wasn’t an easy decision for the Bunce family to do the show, but it was too good of an opportunity to pass up. “I love that we have the opportunity to show the world about our jade; we are extremely proud of our Canadian jade. This is a great opportunity for tourism for us because British Columbia is a great tourism destination for a lot of people from all over the world and that really is the reason why we did this show is because we have a tourism-based business called Jade City,” said Claudia. “We never could’ve planned this; we definitely never wanted to be famous. Rich, yes, but not famous. Now we’re famous and not rich, go figure!”
Jade City itself is located near the Yukon border on Highway 37 north of Dease Lake and is home to approximately 35 people year-round, with as many as 50 during the mining season. The city has seen a big increase in tourists since the first season of the show aired. “We had people in from the Czech Republic yesterday, who came all of the way through Cassiar highway because they watch the show and wanted to say they’ve been to Jade City,” said Claudia. As the tourism side of the business grows in popularity, so do the mining operations. “I mine under Dynasty, I mine under Dease Lake Jade and I just formed another mining company called Jade Fever,” said Claudia.
Cassiar Mountain Jade, Dease Lake Jade Mining and now Jade Fever are family businesses through and through. Robin is the mining operations manager and their sons each have their own role within the company as well. One is an equipment operator, another is studying to become a geologist and the third designs and carves jade pieces while helping manage the store. “We’re really a family company—that’s family and friends. Somebody new that comes in is not just easily brought into the company. We know that when we hire somebody, we want it to be long term and have long-term friendships and relationships,” said Claudia.
Since starring in a hit TV show and operating her own business isn’t enough, Claudia has a few more projects on the go to keep herself busy. “Right now I’m writing a book and we’ve been asked to do a couple of other TV projects, so we’re really excited. We’ll be announcing them after Christmas after the book is finished,” said Claudia. “We’re showcasing an industry that we’re proud of and we are loving what we’re doing.” Through Jade Fever and Jade City, the Bunce family is helping Canada receive the recognition it deserves in the jade industry after spending too many years being passed over. “It’s time for the world to know what we have to offer here," said Claudia. "It’s just a small little bit of Canada and a small little bit of British Columbia, but it’s time."