A British technology company – finally free from the shackles of a confidentiality agreement forged with the Portuguese government – has revealed an extraordinary story. It claims it “tried to empower” the country to get rich beyond its wildest dreams but came up against a wall of “greed and avarice”. Ioniq Global llp doesn’t just want “to set the record straight”, it is seeking to prompt meaningful debate on how Portugal could move forwards, and see potential billions of euros flooding into the country by way of investment.
This is about oil and gas as much as it is about gold, copper and, possibly most important of all, water.
Ioniq Global’s ‘passion’ is in discovering water, chief operating officer Damon Walker has told us.
The company claims it has “game changing technology” involving the interpretation of molecular resonance powered by satellite data that can identify thousands of underground natural resources with surgical-strike accuracy.
In 14 African countries, Walker says the technology has meant the difference between life and death – empowering local communities struggling with drought, pestilence and in some cases sabotage to get back on their feet and recover.
Ioniq’s work bringing water to rural parts of Angola – and identifying “enormous latent resource” – was “the catalyst that brought the Portuguese government to the company’s door”, says Walker.
“They wanted to know if there was anything else we could find”.
And this is where everything started to go horribly wrong.
According to Walker, Ioniq outlined the wealth of resources Portugal has in sufficient quantity to commercialise.
Aside from “significant” on- and offshore reserves of oil and natural gas, there are “billions of euros-worth” of high value minerals in key areas; these include, gold, copper and a supply of underground water in the Alentejo that would bring “world-class agricultural corporations running to the soil rich territory”.
Indeed, due to Ioniq’s business contacts, a producer based in the Middle East was in the wings “with 250 million dollars ready to invest” if the partnership deal went through, Walker told us.
Meetings with powermakers in 2014 identified one major problem, however. There is no legislation in Portugal that allows the State to exploit resources itself.
“What was immediately lost on those who held power was that Ioniq is a technology company, not an exploration or mining company,” said Walker.
“They told us they would have to push for a change in the law. They appeared convinced that it was in the national interest, but we could see that they might be up against other interests.”
The 56-year-old COO says he quickly found out what kind of other interests.
“Out of the blue” Ioniq received a call from what he described as “one of the richest families in Portugal, with business in Angola”, purportedly saying: ‘We are interested in working with you’.
As Walker explained, negotiations up to this point had been restricted to just a few key members of government. That suited Ioniq’s business ethos perfectly.
“We wanted to see profits from Portugal’s huge wealth of natural resources go directly back to the people, not to big business,” he told us.
“This may sound crazy because we are essentially commercial animals – but we have a strong humanitarian ideology. In the case of Portugal, I am passionate about this country. I have been coming here since I was a child. I wanted us to be able to help get the country back on its feet. We certainly did not want to dive into shark-infested waters.”
Days after Ioniq’s refusal to ‘play ball’ with the new interests that had appeared, a story was ‘leaked’ to the press presenting the company as having identified six key reserves of oil and gas – five of them onshore – but wanting an €8.2 million payment up front before it gave any further details.
Sábado’s exposé referred to a proposal that Walker claims Ioniq was asked to compile by the then environment minister Jorge Moreira da Silva.
The story was picked up by a number of other news sources, including the Resident.
The bottom line inferred that Ioniq’s technology was unknown – and therefore open to question – its operation ‘cloaked in secrecy’, and its chairman a former international arms dealer.
As Walker told us: “Yes, we are discreet as the nature of our business demands sensitivity, but to portray our then Chairman as an ‘arms dealer’ was bordering on slanderous. Our Chairman was the former Deputy Chairman of BAE systems, a defence company, and then went onto be Deputy President of Airbus. He does an awful amount for charity and people who have need.
“The worst of it all was we were bound by a confidentiality agreement which we wanted to honour while there was still a chance of doing business with the government,” said Walker.
“We wanted to tell journalists the real story, but we just couldn’t.”
But the confidentiality agreement ‘expired last month’ – hence Ioniq’s decision to ‘finally put the record straight’.
“The stories did not help us at all, and and were slanted by those who managed the leak,” Walker explained. “But far more to the point, the government is now Socialist and may be more interested in empowering itself to benefit the people rather than passing our findings on for others to ‘get rich quick’.
“What’s lacking is what you can call the ‘Mandela mindset’.
“We still have that long, long list of sites where we know there are enormous concentrates of minerals with enormous value.
“We said at the outset that we weren’t prepared to give up information on lead, mercury or uranium, as it doesn’t sit with our motivation – but this still leaves hundreds upon hundreds of millions of dollars worth of minerals under the soil.
“This story doesn’t end here,” said Walker. “I want to see journalists with a conscience start challenging the powers that be to change the status quo to allow communities to benefit from the commercialisation of their own natural resources, not greed-driven multinationals.”
It’s a ‘game-changing’ stance by a company with game-changing technology, but it has to be set against a reality where communities are constantly challenging exploration of any kind.
What did follow the ‘leak’ of Ioniq’s ‘story’ in December 2015 was the government’s signing of oil and gas concessions – both on- and offshore in the Algarve – to various multinational companies. All the concessions were for areas mentioned in Ioniq’s research.
Intriguingly, anti-campaigners have always pointed out that the terms and conditions of the licences awarded to concessions see the country (more to the point, the people) coming out with “zero benefits”.
By NATASHA DONN email@example.com
How Ioniq’s technology works
Developed over 30 years, Ioniq’s technology essentially draws advanced electro-magnetic data which it harvests from commercial satellite companies.
The data is synthesized and processed in such a way that frequencies are examined instead of the more traditional geological algorithms.
The frequencies are what Walker calls the DNA profile of each resource, and as such ‘infallible’.
But the process is revolutionary in that it is far cheaper than traditional methods and “hugely disruptive” for a multimillion dollar industry.
According to Walker, Ioniq has ‘black boxed’ 4000 frequencies – a number representing resources tested at different depths, temperatures and in different physiological states. For example, the company has over 40 different frequencies for water alone.
In the case of oil, Walker adds that there are over 37 different frequencies, which help indicate volume and quantity prior to extraction.
Photo: Jorge Moreira da Silva, the then minister for the environment, at the time the meetings were held with Ioniq
Photo by: Miguel A. Lopes/Lusa