Monthly Archives: May 2018

‘All Alluvial Mining Should Be Reserved’

PM Peter O’Neill says all alluvial mining should be reserved for Papua New Guineans

Post Courier | May 31, 2018

PRIME Minster Peter O’Neill says all alluvial mining in the country should be reserved for Papua New Guineans.

Mr O’Neill said he agrees with the decision and the stances the Morobe provincial government took in allowing Papua New Guineans to mine and take ownership of alluvial mines.

He said although he was not aware of the letter from the Morobe Goldfield Mine Association, he would instruct the Minster for Mining and the department to look into the concern of the people who did not want explorations licences to be issued to big mining companies.

“I’m not privy to the letter, generally I support the call and stand of the Morobe provincial government that alluvial mines should be reserved to our people.

“Big companies should not be involved in alluvial mining in PNG.”

Mr O’Neill said this during Question Time yesterday in response to Morobe Governor Ginson Soanu who had asked that the Morobe Goldfield Mine Association oppossed the issuing of alluvial mine exploration licences to big companies to be involved in alluvial exploration and mining in Wau-Bulolo.

Mr Soanu said that Morobe provincial government supported the association, which involved villagers and ordinary people, and wanted the Minster for Mining Johnson Tuke, the Department of Mines and MRA not to issue any licence to Harmony Exploration Limited and Abu Exploration Limited for EL2544 and EL2554 in the Wau-Bulolo area.

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Ok Tedi mine to give 33pc of ownership to communities

The National aka The Loggers Times | May 30, 2018

Fly River (Western) government and communities impacted by Ok Tedi mine will at the end of this year have 33 per cent ownership of the project.

This is according to Ok Tedi Mine Ltd (OTML) chairman Sir Moi Avei in the company’s report for the last financial year.

“As reported last year, the State, the Fly River government and the CMCAs (community mine continuation agreement areas), reached agreement, whereby the provincial government and special purpose community entities will collectively hold a 33 per cent equity interest in Ok Tedi with the State retaining the balance,” he said.

“This change, expected to be completed in 2018, will serve to further strengthen the relationship between Ok Tedi and our host communities.

“OTML will remain.”

The company last year recorded a net profit of K848 million (US$266 million) and generated K84 million (US$ 246 million) of free cash-flow.

This in turn allowed it to distribute K380 million (US$119 million) of dividends in 2017.

Sir Moi said the result was achieved through combined efforts of its employees and contractor partners. “We have been able to meet internal production targets in 2017,” he said.

“Our operations delivered the highest mine production, ore processed and metal production for the last five years.

“The company also played an important role in generating foreign currency with US$ 1billion (K3.25 billion) of sales revenue generated during the year.

“I wish to thank management and the workforce of Ok Tedi for their continued commitment and valued contribution.”
Sir Moi said the company also continued to make significant contributions to services and infrastructure development in areas affected by the mine through its community development programmes.

“The OTDF (Ok Tedi Development Foundation), a subsidiary of OTML, serves as the vehicle for delivering projects and services funded by contributions made by OTML directly and through the CMCA Trusts and the tax credit scheme,” he said.

“OTDF serves this purpose with the eventual goal of broadening its shareholder base and expanding its role to be a significant contributor to long-term development in Western.”

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RTG using medical supplies to win hearts and minds in battle over Panguna

Arawa town. Photo Radio New Zealand

RTG Mining Inc. Announces Donation of Medical Supplies for New Arawa District Hospital in Bougainville

RTG Mining via Stockhouse | 30 May 2018

RTG Mining Inc. is pleased to announce that together with the Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association (“SMLOLA”), the company has donated much needed medical supplies to the new Arawa District Hospital, which is soon to be officially opened in Bougainville by the Australian High Commissioner and leading Government officials from both the Autonomous Bougainville Government and Papua New Guinea Government. 

RTG has been working with the SMLOLA team, who represent the Customary Landowners who own the minerals at the old Panguna Mine and is thankful for the opportunity to work with the team on this project.  Good healthcare is one of the central tenets of life, that should be available to all and we are proud to be able to help the local communities in this way.  Livelihood programs have always been an important part of our philosophy, with the RTG Management Team having won awards around the world for its social and environmental programs, having successfully developed and operated 7 mines in 5 different countries.

RTG remains committed to working with the SMLOLA, its members and the Autonomous Bougainville Government to progress the redevelopment of Panguna.  We thank the SMLOLA and its members for their continued support and nomination as their preferred development partner should they be successful in securing an exploration licence for Panguna.

ABOUT RTG MINING INC.

RTG Mining Inc. is a mining and exploration company listed on the main board of the Toronto Stock Exchange and Australian Securities Exchange Limited.  RTG is focused on a proposal with a landowner lead consortium to secure an exploration licence at the high tonnage copper-gold Panguna Project in Bougainville PNG and the high grade copper/gold/magnetite Mabilo Project in the Philippines, while also identifying major new projects which will allow the Company to move quickly and safely to production.

RTG has an experienced management team which has to date developed seven mines in five different countries, including being responsible for the development of the Masbate Gold Mine in the Philippines through CGA Mining Limited, and has B2Gold as one of its major shareholders in the Company. B2Gold is a member of both the S&P/TSX Global Gold and Global Mining Indices.

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“Government Will Not Repeat Mistake With Papua LNG”

Post Courier | May 30, 2018

PRIME Minister Peter O’Neill has told Parliament that the government will not repeat the same mistakes when dealing with the new Papua LNG project or any other resource project.

He said the developer of Papua LNG would have to complete social mapping and landowner identification before any project is developed.

Mr O’Neill also said the government would review the laws to make it compulsory for consultation with provincial governments and landowners.

“We may have to review the legislation around the consultation process, but in terms of the resources sectors in mining, petroleum and gas industry, I think there is quite a very good consultation process between the stakeholders, especially the landowners and the provincial governments,” he said.

“I would also want to announce that in terms of the second LNG project for Elk Antelope, I want to inform Parliament that we have also included the Governor for Gulf in the State negotiation team.”

He said this follows the precedence set by the Somare government in the first LNG project where the governors for Southern Highlands and Hela were included in the negotiation teams so they are fully engaged in every stage of the negotiation that is taking place.

“I certainly do not want to make the mistakes of the first LNG, where landowners were not properly identified now we are having a difficult process of clan vetting as all sorts of clans are popping up and it can be a cumbersome and difficult exercise,” he said.

“That’s what we are trying to avoid and we want to make sure that developers take on the responsibility as stipulated in the Oil and Gas Act and in the Mining Act.

“They must identify and do the social mapping properly so that the right benefits go to the rightful landowners and stakeholders in the projects,” he said.

Mr O’Neill was responding to questions from Gulf Governor Chris Haiveta relating to provincial government representation in the extractive industry and the level of consultation and the time which these consultations are allowed for by the provincial governments and the resource owners.

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Australian miner loses bauxite licence in Solomons

NASA picture of Nende in Solomon Islands’ Temotu province. Photo: NASA

Radio New Zealand | 30 May 2018 

An Australian company wanting to mine bauxite in Solomon Islands has had its exploration licence rescinded.

AU Capital Mining was exploring in Nende in the remote eastern province of Temotu, but it has been notified by the Mining Minister, Bradley Tovosia that their prospecting to date has been unsatisfactory.

The minister went on to say that the company had failed to establish amicable relations with the local communities in Nende – something that is required under the agreement.

AU Capital Mining obtained an initial provincial business licence a year ago but it has been confronted by significant opposition in Nende ever since.

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Exxon seeks to dismiss suit against Papua New Guinea oil investors

Elizabeth Alt | SE Texas Record | May 29, 2018

Exxon Mobil Corp. and Exxon Mobil Canada LTD have filed a motion in the Houston Division of the Southern District of Texas to voluntarily dismiss a lawsuit they filed against several parties of an oil exploration project in Papua New Guinea after the investors dismissed Exxon from the arbitration against them.

The motion to dismiss was filed on May 4. Exxon requested to voluntarily dismiss the suit without prejudice against the defendants, noting that the defendants had not filed for summary judgment, appeared or served an answer. Exxon also said in its motion that the defendants voluntarily dismissed InterOil Corp and Exxon Mobile Canada Holdings ULC from the arbitration against them.

Exxon filed a complaint for declaratory relief in March, asking the court to declare that “Exxon Mobil Corp. and Exxon Mobil Canada LTD are not required to, and cannot be required to, participate in any way in the arbitration” filed in February by investors of the Papua New Guinea oil exploration project by InterOil.

Exxon claimed defendants Polygon PNG LP, Bernard Selz, Selz Family Trust DTD 5/31/2011, John J. Mack, Pacific LNG Operations Pte LTD, Pequot PNG Oil Inc., Priorat Partners LP, Bruce E. Hendry 2012 Irrevocable Trust and CVI Investments Inc. in are investors of InterOil Corp, which Exxon Mobile Canada merged with in 2017.

The investors signed an agreement with InterOil in 2005 to “indirectly participate” in the Papua New Guinea oil project, which the investors claim wasted more than $70 million. The investors filed an order for arbitration against Exxon Mobil Canada Holdings ULC, Exxon Mobil Corp. and InterOil Corp. in February, according to Law360.

Exxon alleged that most of the investors’ claims for breach of contract against the agreement with InterOil took place before 2015, when Exxon had no relationship with InterOil, making Exxon Mobile Canada non-signatories and not bound by the arbitration clause of the investor’s agreement with InterOil.

Exxon is represented by James L. Loftis, Timothy J. Tyler, Quentin L. Smith and Caroline Stewart of Vinson & Elkins LLP in Houston.

Houston Division of the Southern District of Texas case number 4:18-cv-00884

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Honduran villagers take legal action to stop mining firm digging up graves for gold

A view of the San Andres open-pit gold mine near the community of Azacualpa, as seen from Cemetery Mountain where the cemetery is located. Mining has been deeply integrated into the local economy for decades. Photograph: Heather Gies

Families face pressure to decide the fate of their relatives’ grave, dividing the community of Azacualpa where as many as 350 bodies have already been exhumed

Heather Gies  | The Guardian | 28 May 2018  

Nothing is sacred in the path of gold miners in northwestern Honduras – not even the dead.

A transnational mining company, Aura Minerals, has been digging up graves in the 200-year-old cemetery near the community of Azacualpa, La Union, to clear the way to dig for gold.

As many as 350 bodies have reportedly been exhumed by the company’s Honduran subsidiary, Minerales de Occidente (Minosa) since the process began last fall. The issue has divided Azacualpa, a coffee-producing community perched near the edge of the decades-old San Andres open-pit gold mine, and opened up rifts within families.

Some residents fear the graveyard is the last line of defence before the Canadian-listed company will eye the community as its next extraction site.

Genaro Rodriguez, a 60-year-old construction worker and coffee producer who lives in Azacualpa, hopes a legal challenge will put a stop to the debacle – a court has ordered a temporary halt to exhumations pending further investigations.

“What we want is for the cemetery not to be touched,” Rodriguez said.

In the cemetery, about 50 meters from where the carved-out mountainside plummets into the mine, damaged tombs indicate that some coffins have already been removed.

Floresmira Lopez recently stood at her father’s grave and blocked workers from taking his remains. She blames the mining company for stress-induced health problems as well as family conflicts that have erupted over the grave-digging.

The exhumations have roots in a 2012 agreement between Azacualpa and Aura Minerals’ Honduran subsidiary, Minerales de Occidente (Minosa). The agreement promised a housing relocation project for 400 families in exchange for permission to mine a handful of sites, including the hill where the cemetery sits.

An addendum to the agreement gave individuals the right to agree to the graves of their relatives beings dug up, allowing the company to exhume remains with a single relative’s consent. Entire families are said to have wound up at odds with each other.

Miguel Lopez, president of the Azacualpa Environmental Committee, accused the company of taking advantage of poor residents and exploiting the “love of money” to manipulate and divide the community.

Some residents who have consented to exhumations have received letters setting a date and promising a cheque if they show up at the cemetery to “accompany the process”.

One Azacualpa resident, who declined to give her name, confirmed she received a second instalment of compensation the day her husband’s remains were carried out of the cemetery.

Payments are described as being in lieu of the housing project, not redress for digging up the deceased. The addendum sets February 2019 as the deadline for the third and final instalment, but also says payment will be contingent on clearing the cemetery.

Bersy Rivera, a single mother and one of the plaintiffs listed on the recent legal action, believes the company aims to negotiate “packages of the dead” to exhume as many corpses as possible in exchange for a single housing compensation deal.

85-year-old Salvador Garcia, for example, faces pressure to authorize exhumation for his three children and parents-in-law. But he is only willing to sign off on his children’s remains, saying he doesn’t want to spark problems with his in-laws’ grandchildren, who oppose exhumation.

Mayor of the municipality of La Unión, Victor Hugo Alvarado, who in last year’s election unseated the mayor who had cut Azacualpa out of the municipal budget, believes both sides failed to clarify the details, leaving the agreement “very open” to confusion and conflict.

Aside from the exhumations, local residents accused the mine of having adverse health and environmental impacts.

Minosa declined to comment on the suspension of the exhumations and allegations of manipulation and non-compliance with agreements. The parent company Aura Minerals did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Many stone tombs in the cemetery have been broken, reportedly to remove remains inside. However, the majority of the cemetery is devoid of gravestones or markers, complicating the exhumations process. Photograph: Heather Gies

In recent months, the exhumations have taken place against a backdrop of a worsening state crackdown on social movements, amid protests against alleged election fraud, including evidence of extrajudicial killings, according to the United Nations.

President Juan Orlando Hernández’s re-election solidified an economic model, ushered in through the 2009 military coup, that champions pro-extractive industry policies.

Minosa paid over CAD$12m (£7m) in taxes and fees in Honduras in 2016.

Plaintiffs in Azacualpa are pursuing further legal action to protect the cemetery by seeking to nullify the 2012 and 2016 agreements.

Ramiro Lara of the Association of Non-Governmental Organisms of Honduras (ASONOG) expects the case to expose “irregularities” in the signing of the accords and the exhumations.

“Demonstrating the human rights violations will allow us to prevent the continued exhumation of (relatives) of people who adamantly oppose this action,” Lara said. “The exploitation of the Cemetery Mountain, which is one of the company’s strong intentions, would be avoided.”

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BCL “wishes to create goodwill”

Cedric Patjole | Loop PNG | May 28, 2018

Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) chairman, Mel Togolo, says the company aims to work positively and constructively with both the PNG and Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG).

He also said the company wishes to create goodwill among communities as they plan to redevelop Panguna Mine.

Togolo said this following the company’s Annual General Meeting on Thursday.

Togolo said it was important to note that BCL was a PNG company with both the PNG and ABG governments as major shareholders.

“The National Government and the Autonomous Bougainville Government have 36.4 percent each. They own the company because they have significant interest in the company on behalf of their respective people,” said Togolo.

Given their majority shareholding, it was important that positive and constructive relationship was in place.

“We respect the Government of the day. We want to work together, and also we know that the Government, the Bougainville Government like the Papua New Guinea Government, have got significant interests as shareholders and their interest as a board we’ll have to look after that interest and to make sure that we create goodwill and understanding among the community in order for us to redevelop the Panguna Mine.”

With the referendum approaching, Togolo says that is a political process they will not be involved in. But they encouraged both governments to work together during the process.

“But as a company we are focused to see how we can redevelop the mine which will be of benefit to Bougainvillean people and the Government of Papua New Guinea.”

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Fiji’s mining and quarring industry a problem sector: Dr Gangopadhyay

Mining of bauxite in Bua. The mining and quarrying industry in Fiji has been labelled as a “problem sector” by Australian-based consultant Dr Partha Gangopadhyay. Picture: FT FILE

Mere Naleba | The Fiji Times | 26 May, 2018

THE mining and quarrying industry in Fiji has been labelled as a “problem sector” by Australian-based consultant Dr Partha Gangopadhyay who was hired by Government to conduct a review on the national minimum wage.

Dr Gangopadhyay a Professor in the School of Business at the Western Sydney University made the comments while discussing the 10 sectorial industries at a consultation organised by the Ministry of Employment, Productivity, and Industrial Relations.

“I don’t have to tell you but this is a problem sector by now, most of the mines have been depleted, exhausted. Resources have been taken away or have gone too deep, productivity rate is very slow, productivity growth since last year is 0.5 per cent and our concern is this sector brought a lot of resources, a lot of money to Fiji, a lot of employment, a lot of skill development and today it is a struggling sector,” Dr Gangopadhyay said.

The proposed minimum wage for those in the mining and quarry industries is to have a wage increase by 1.029 per cent.

The current national minimum wage is $2.68.

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Will Hela be the next Bougainville?

Young men in Eastern Highlands, PNG engaged in tribal conflict walking to meet the opposing tribe (DFAT/Flickr/CC BY 2.0)

Matthew Allen | Devpolicy Blog | May 24, 2018

In the midst of the flurry of anxiety-driven commentary about the increasing influence of China in the Pacific and its security consequences for Australia, it is oddly refreshing to see some attention being given to what is arguably a far more pressing and immediate security challenge for many of Australia’s near Pacific neighbours: the pernicious social impacts of large-scale extractive resource industries.

Much of this recent attention – including a report by Jubilee Australia – has focused on developments in Hela Province in the PNG Highlands where the devastating February 26 earthquake has compounded the social tumult unleashed by ExxonMobil’s giant PNG Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) project, giving rise to a downward spiral of violence, death and disorder. Throughout the commentary on the unfolding human disaster in Hela, a recurring question is being posed: could all this blow up into a protracted armed conflict akin to the Bougainville Crisis of 1989 to 1998?

This is precisely the question that forms the point of departure for the research presented in my recently published book Resource extraction and contentious states: mining and the politics of scale in the Pacific Islands.

The book’s focus is on the region known to geographers as the Solomons chain of islands, consisting of the autonomous region of Bougainville and the Solomon Islands. These islands have hosted the region’s two most serious armed conflicts since the Second World War: the Bougainville Crisis and the Solomon Islands “Ethnic Tension” of 1998 to 2003, which was largely confined to the island of Guadalcanal.

Large-scale mining was implicated in both of these conflicts, but much more so in the case of Bougainville, where most informed commentators agree that the Crisis would not have occurred were it not for the impacts of Rio Tinto’s Panguna mine, at the time one of the world’s largest copper and gold mines.

Given that these conflicts occurred on islands, the book sets out to ask whether there is something peculiar about islands — their “islandness” as it is referred to in the burgeoning island studies literature — that makes them unusually or exceptionally potent spaces for the contentious and frequently violent politics that attend extractive enclave economies.

More specifically, the book asks whether the Bougainville conflict would ever have occurred, or occurred to the extent that it did, if Bougainville had not been a sub-national island jurisdiction (i.e. an island-province) of PNG but instead a landlocked province within “mainland” PNG, such as Hela Province, or, for that matter Enga Province, which hosts the violence-plagued Porgera gold mine operated by Canadian miner Barrick Gold and the subject of a damning Human Rights Watch report in 2011.

Of course this is not a question for which there is a definitive answer: if there is anything we have learned from the vast corpus of research on intra-state conflicts in developing country settings, it is that such conflicts are always the outcome of a complex set of social, political, historical and ecological factors operating at multiple scales. When it comes to interpreting the “causes” of developing country conflicts, we have become acutely aware of falling into the traps of determinism, narrative simplification and mono-causal interpretation.

The book does suggest, however, that it is a useful question ‘to think with’, not least because it draws attention to the inescapabilty of geography, and, in particular, to how what geographers refer to as social-spatial relations – such as territoriality and the politics of scale – matter more than ever if we are to understand the violent ructions that are being engendered by contemporary forms of globalisation and what economic geographer David Harvey has described as “accumulation by dispossession”.

By territoriality I mean strategies to enclose and control geographical space; strategies that depend, crucially, upon the communication of territorial boundaries. By the politics of scale I mean struggles over the scales at which economic and political processes occur. Through these struggles, new, sometimes previously unimaginable, scales can be produced and the relative importance of existing scales reconfigured. Notable examples include the European Union, sub-national urbanised mega-regions, and globalised financial markets that transcend national regulatory systems.

Due to their unique geographic properties – their stark boundedness – islands have long been seen as paradigmatic settings for territorialising projects, including the nation-state and sub-national jurisdictions of various types. In the words of John Gillis, they are the “most clearly marked boundaries of all”. In the book I argue that as well as having these distinctive territorial properties, islands can also be produced as a powerful scale of political and economic contestation.

In the context of large islands in the western Pacific, such as Bougainville and Guadalcanal, island-wide identities and socio-political movements were, in the first instance, a product of the introduction of capitalist social relations in the form of the colonial plantation economy. The plantation experience, buttressed by the Christian missions and the colonial delineation of sub-national administrative units that were often coterminous with islands, united the culturally and linguistically heterogeneous populations of the large Melanesian islands in ways that were previously unknown, effectively producing the island as a scale of accumulation, dispossession and resistance.

And just as Melanesian islands were socially produced during the colonial epoch of globalisation, so too have they emerged as a critical, albeit problematic, scale of struggle in contemporary contestations around globalised extractive resource capitalism; demonstrated, most spectacularly, by the advent of island-scale armed insurgencies first on Bougainville and then on Guadalcanal.

I say problematic because the island has been an ephemeral and elusive scale for collective action: it has only emerged at particular moments and conjunctures, and it competes with forces that constantly work to fracture it, not least of which in the context of Melanesian resource extraction is another relatively recently produced scale of contestation: customary landownership.

Indeed, it is the scale of customary landownership that has, in the first instance, been most productive of violence in the encounter with extractive industries as powerful individuals, invariably men, have captured economic benefits (such as rents, royalties and compensation payments) at the direct expense of other members of their landowning groups. These processes of exclusion have had salient gender and intergenerational dimensions, and, in the context of Melanesian socio-cultural norms of reciprocity and obligation, they have produced intense social disintegration and conflict.

However, ethnic or indigenous claims to resource-rich territories have also been an important and analytically distinct feature of resource-related violence in Melanesia. This appears to be especially true when the territory or scale in question also happens to be a relatively large island; or, in other words, when it is possible for the scale of ethnicity/indigeneity to be coterminous with the territorial boundaries of an island.

Which brings us back to the question of whether Hela, or for that matter, Enga, could become the next Bougainville? Setting aside (critically important) specificities of history, culture and social organisation, my analysis suggests that the distinctive geographical characteristics of islands can indeed make them exceptionally potent platforms for armed conflicts over natural resources, at least in the context of the Melanesian Pacific.

To be sure, many of the same spatial tensions are also evident around extractive projects in the PNG mainland: the social disintegration of landowning groups and benefit-sharing tensions between the local, provincial and national scales. Indeed it is worth recalling that the creation of Hela Province in 2012 was in large part driven by the desire of the 300,000 strong Huli-speakers, who had long been marginalised from the Highland’s lucrative extractive projects, to capitalise upon the advent of the LNG project, which is located squarely in Huli territory.

However, while new provinces can be created, and while their borders may even be conterminous with language and cultural boundaries, there are no ready-made geographical platforms for sub-national collective political action in these mainland areas. Put simply, territory and scale can be coproduced in islands in ways they cannot in mainland settings.

Of course only a fool would entertain ironclad predictions about social and political developments in Melanesia, but an unabashed geographical interpretation would suggest limits to the potential for localised tensions around extractive enclaves on mainland PNG to escalate into large-scale armed conflict with a distinctive ethno-nationalist or separatist character such as we witnessed in the case of Bougainville.

That said, as demonstrated in the Jubilee Australia report, the current social chaos and disorder in Hela is clearly linked, at least in part, to the PNG LNG project, once again reminding us of the socially corrosive and frequently violent character of Melanesia’s extractive economies.

Resource extraction and contentious states: mining and the politics of scale in the Pacific Islands will be launched at the University of the South Pacific today at 5.30pm and at ANU in late July. The research reported in the book was funded by the Australian Research Council.

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