Uri Geller's Hidden Agenda
Uri Geller, the world's most famous spoon bender, has turned his extraordinary powers to prospecting, with a lucrative consultancy that ensures top oil and mining companies strike it rich. Jonathan B Webster investigates.
Most people know of Uri Geller as the world's most accomplished psychic clairvoyant. What few realise however, is that the greatest part of his success comes not from bending spoons or beefing up the psychological resolve of football teams, but from helping some of the largest oil and mining corporations make their next big discovery. In black gold and precious metal circles Geller is referred to as the man with the golden touch", a King Midas of the late-20th century. The secret of his success he says, is "dowsing, using essentially nothing more than my hands and a lot of maps".
Geller insists his technique is not new. "Dowsing's been around since Agricola's time and there are references in De Re Metallica (1556), in which it's described as a means of prospecting for mineral lodes. It's rumoured that many countries and companies have used dowsing over the centuries as a means of exploration, but have kept quiet for fear of ridicule," he says.
He admits that he does not actually know how dowsing works. "It is a little understood sensory process that's better developed in some individuals than others. I'm one of the lucky ones, in that I'm blessed with the gift. The US Bureau of Mines came closest to an accurate definition when they defined it as 'to...locate and delineate formationsbearing water, oil, or minerals by use of a divining rod or other non-scientific means'."
The first inkling that he may have had skills beyond showmanship became apparent in his early 20s in Israel, when Geller helped General Moshe Dayan to find archaeological artefacts. "I didn't really understand how to use these mysterious skills to my own advantage until I met a remarkable businessman in the early 1970s - Sir Val Duncan." Sir Val, the then chairman of Rio Tinto-Zinc Ltd and a dowser himself, immediately realised that Geller was a natural. "It was thanks to him that I slowly but surely got involved in the mining industry," he says.
It took Geller a relatively short time to devise his own variation of map-dowsing, but using his bare hands instead of a pendulum. "I call my method remote sensing," he explains. "Before I visit a prospecting area, I study the maps for at least two hours a day and memorise their main features, so that I can recognise them when I'm flying over them later. Then," according to Geller, the really exciting part happens. I wait to feel magnetic sensations on my palms and fingertips. Sometimes these come quickly, sometimes not, but eventually I find myself zeroing in on certain regions which I mark in pencil. I painstakingly check the magnetic sensations for days or even weeks to make sure that my impressions remain the same. When they do, I mark the areas to be flown over for the aerial hand-dowsing or trekking part of the onsite operation."
Geller and his business manager, Shimshon Strang ("Shippy") realised that the profitable side of their business could be made even more effective if they were to forge a strategic business alliance with several leading engineers and geologists - and so, Uri Geller Associates was recently formed.
"It's a very exciting move," says Geller. "Until I forged this strategic business relationship with Tony Hammond (a mining engineer), Dennis Thomas (a manager with many years experience in mining) and Harrie Thompson (a chartered mechanical engineer) - I was relying totally on my own psychic abilities. Having geologists and engineers as associates, however, means I get the benefit of their feedback. They get me close to the target area, by directing me to geological clues that I don't know about." By all accounts, the nature of the business has also changed. "I'm now working on just four or five big projects a year, and consequently making considerably more money, of which a substantial part of my cut goes to charity."
If his claims are to be taken at face value, Geller's track record in prospecting has been very successful. "Out of 11 clients that have used my services so far, four have struck big, another four did very respectably and only three had lacklustre results. Now I'm confident that UGA will be able to optimize this by pinpointing deposits with minimal exploration costs. You will be amazed at how much money some of the mining companies waste by throwing away huge sums on unnecessary exploration. Our challenge to them is this: why spend $100 million a year to find nothing, when for little more than 1 per cent of that budget you can hire our services and have a much higher chance of a strike?"
Despite considerable scientific evidence to prove his remarkable powers, Geller regularly has to do battle with the sceptics. The conservative mining and minerals industry is no exception. What is a particular source of disappointment to him, however, is when companies have hired his services, but doubting Thomases in the client organisation choose to ignore his advice. "Of course, that's their prerogative," he says diplomatically, "but it can cost them dearly. I once told a company not to drill in three places, but they went ahead and lost a staggering $50 million in wasted exploration."
Geller's task can frequently involve stopping a client digging for "fool's gold", as he puts it. "A company may discover traces of gold or a target mineral, but where my powers are invaluable is in ascertaining whether the deposits are of commercial value." The news of such tangible success and Geller's uncanny psychic intuition are slowly but surely spreading through this notoriously difficult industry. The respected industry journal International Mining notes "...there are many great scientific minds, influential people, and people in the mining industry that have been convinced by 'The Geller Effect'."
And, Geller has considerable status on the lecture circuit. He has been the highest rated speaker on the American Young President's Organisation circuit - an elite gathering of chairmen from some of the world's largest companies - which has included Henry Kissinger, General Alexander Haig and President Gerald Ford. He has also lectured at the United Nations Parapsychology Society and at the Small Mines conference at the University of London.
When it comes to corporate clients it's a different story. Geller admits that - much as he would prefer it otherwise - he has to keep a low profile. "Business people, especially from the mining industry, are notoriously reluctant to be seen doing anything unconventional in the eyes of their shareholders. So, I have to respect their wish for confidentiality."
However, one large organization, Zanex a successful Australian geological and mining company, did decide to go public, providing a clear idea of how prospecting a la Geller can bear fruit "In 1985 I was contacted by Peter Stirling, the chairman of Zanex," says Geller, "who had some interesting gold mining leases in the Solomon Islands. As a result of my work, Peter gave me an open testimonial letter, a passage from which reads: 'I confirm that Zanex is about to commence exploration in areas outlined by you in the Solomon Islands. The most interesting area identified to date is on Malaita Island where, upon your instructions, we are about to commence a search for gold and diamonds. We have already confirmed the presence of kimberlite which could be diamondiferous in this area. Other areas will be investigated in due course'."
UGA hopes that in time, their clients will be less obsessed with secrecy. "Using the unorthodox alongside the orthodox is becoming increasingly respectable - if it's now okay in the world of medicine, then why not in mining?" asks Geller. "Take my partner Tony, for example, as well as being a highly respected mining engineer and consultant, he's also an amateur dowser. We are encouraging companies not to hide the fact that they employ us."
Geller is reserved about his precise financial standing, but according to the Financial Times charges a standard fee of £1million - and more in areas considered to be physically dangerous. "That's right," replies Geller, without hesitation. "In fact the Financial Times was also right when it said of the 11 projects I have undertaken in the past 10 years, four have been big successes where the royalties went way beyond the original £1 million advance. I'm not prepared to say more than that, other than the rewards from my mining consultancy have enabled me to enjoy an excellent lifestyle!"
Indeed the Gellers live in palatial comfort in a Thameside manor in deepest Berkshire. Geller, an avowed "family man" stresses that as time goes on he is increasingly careful about the nature of the mining consultancy work he undertakes. The issue of personal safety is never far from his mind. "Some of my work is quite dangerous because it involves exploring difficult terrain such as the Amazon jungle, Antarctica or Papua New Guinea in flimsy, slow, twin-engined aeroplanes. If something was ever to happen to me I need to think of my family, hence the high fees I charge." Geller is not being melodramatic. He has had several pretty close shaves. "Once in the Solomon Islands I almost fell into a very deep pit and on another occasion, our pilot had to make a hazardous emergency landing on the TransAmazon highway, because we couldn't find the airport.
"But, such trips can open your eyes. The trip to the Amazon, where we were looking for gold on behalf of a Japanese company, was great for the fact that I saw lush jungle, snakes, spiders and animals that most people only see in the movies."
And so the Geller business machine rolls industriously on with half a dozen mining projects simultaneously on the go and the launch of a new publication devoted to the paranormal: Uri Geller's Encounters. He is also about to launch, through the Joe Bloggs fashion empire, a line of "New Age, Positive, Open-Mind" clothing, cosmetics, watches and accessories on the back of his successful new age blockbuster Uri Geller's Mind-Power Kit.
To shareholders who wonder whether Geller's Indiana Jones-style of mining is fact or fiction, only those mining companies who have used his services can answer that question. Certainly Zanex are more than happy.
The author is a freelance writer for OK! Weekly, Maxim and BBC Music Magazine.
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- Uri is in Shropshire with HRH Prince Michael of Kent, to unveil the 40,000 spoon Gorilla! - British Ironworks Centre, Oswestry, Shropshire