Ste.-Marie-aux-Mines Show 2006.
At the end of June 2006 in central Europe, World Cup frenzy ruled (with cheering and beering natives, bare skins and Mohawk hairdos painted in various national colors, filling the streets of towns); the weather was hot and sunny; and from a surprising number of shop windows the Ste.-Marie-aux-Mines Show poster, showing the famous "dragon" gold specimen from California, looked out on passersby. For me, though, the theme-of-the-week was Nostalgia, for I'd come to Europe to check in again on people, places and things from my former life there (1976-1991). When my old friend Gary Kissick (accomplished poet and novelist) came down from his home in England to join me and my wife at the Ste.-Marie Show, we revisited a nostalgic site: the very first column of mine published in the Mineralogical Record (Nov.-Dec 1986 issue) was a report on the 1986 Ste.-Marie Show, including Gary's photo of me standing outside the theater building which was (and still is) the center of show action. Gary restaged the photo, with a result not shown here, inasmuch as the building, you see, looks too much, too unacceptably, older.
The density of the crowds this year at the show routinely approached World Cup-festivity levels, the sun was hot, and we won't even speak of the parking problems in town--but being there was entirely delightful. Predictably, the show in 2006 was at least twice as big as it was the last time I'd seen it, in 1991. The ground plan published with Bill Larson's 2001 show report (vol. 32 no. 6, p. 488) displays what is still the general layout, but whereas there were 550 dealer/exhibitors in 2001 there were more than 900 in 2006. To the 2001 geographic plan there has since been added a whole new area of dealers' tents (on the right of the diagram), as well as two large, connected enclosures which were new this year. Called the "Val d'Argent Expo," these brand-new halls have been fashioned out of an old industrial complex measuring 2500 square meters in area: "Val Expo I" chiefly holds mineral dealers while "Val Expo II" holds mineral club stands, seminar areas, and fossil, micromount and miscellany dealers. Establishing these "Val d'Argent" venues apparently saved the show from having had to be moved from Ste.-Marie-aux-Mines to some larger nearby town (Colmar had been suggested): To quote from a handout:
The safety- and security-related constraints made it difficult to maintain the exhibition under the current conditions. Following a large movement of support by the citizens, the local officials, and particularly the municipality, took the opportunity to acquire [the] industrial complex in order to renovate it.
Those who have developed a fondness for this slope-streeted, flowery old town, headquarters for silver mining which ended in the 18th century, may thank its citizens for having acted thus to retain the show. The name "The Colmar Show" simply wouldn't have the historical-mineralogical cachet of "The Ste.-Marie-aux-Mines Show."
Some visitors, especially collectors from America, went about as usual saying that there was "nothing new" at the show, and yet my notes are copious enough to be organized into a Tucson show report-style "world tour" of interesting (if not all championship-level) mineral discoveries on hand. Since it seems only sporting to start with the host country, consider first some excellent French fluorite specimens. French fluorite is not widely marketed in the U.S., and hence is under-appreciated by Americans, so it's worth noting that these specimens from the Mine du Burg (or Burc--as it's sometimes written, in imitation of a local dialect), in the Albigeois fluorite-mining district, Department of Tarn, south-central France, are quite attractive. Serious fluorite mining here began in the early 1970's, but the Montroc mines closed in July 2005, the Moulinal mine closed in November 2005, and the district's best source of specimen-quality fluorite, the Mine du Burg [Burc] is just now closing. I received this information from two French dealers, Alain Martaud and Michel Cabrol, both of whom had stands in the theater building with modest numbers of fine fluorite specimens from the Mine du Burg, some from old hoards now being sold off, and some that were found very recently in the process of closing the mine. These specimens show lustrous, transparent, pale baby-blue to deep blue, cubic fluorite crystals to 3 cm on edge, in loose clusters or strewn among sparkling crusts of milky white, 5-mm quartz "points." In some specimens the limpid blue fluorite crystals show prominent phantoms; others have partial coatings of drusy pyrite. In all they are quite beautiful. Alain Martaud (33 rue Compans, 75019 Paris, France) had about ten miniatures of Mine du Burg fluorite, all recently collected, plus a few spectacular big pieces in a display case. Claudette and Michel Cabrol (firstname.lastname@example.org) offered 35 specimens ranging in size from toenails to one gorgeous plate measuring 20 x 35 cm.
Nor was this the show's only appearance of French fluorite. On the upper level of the theater building, Lino Caserini (Via Don Giuseppe del Como 1, 20132 Milano, Italy) had about 40 fluorite specimens found in March 2006 in the Le Piboul mine, Department of Lozere (northeast of Tarn and just south of Haute-Loire). In these miniature and small cabinet-size specimens, cubic, transparent, medium-orange fluorite crystals to 3 cm form loose platy groups, or rest on salt-and-pepper matrix of weathered granite which is densely veined with purple fluorite of an earlier generation. For more information on French fluorite see the recent special "Hors Serie XI" publication of Le Regne Mineral, on the marvelous fluorites of the Departments of Haute-Loire and Puy-de-Dome, north-northeast of Tarn.
The old Salsigne gold mine in the Department of Aude, 18 km north of Carcassonne in southern France, was closed in 2000, but two large hoards of dramatic aragonite specimens collected there in 1970 and 1980 were being offered by a French dealership (whose name I unfortunately failed to record) in one of the Val Expo areas at Ste.-Marie. The 1980 lot, collected in the "Rameles Grotto" on the Salsigne mine's 337 level, consists of about 100 specimens of pure bright white coralloidal aragonite, each one a flamboyant fantasy of rounded stalks, acicular sprays, and delicate frostlike growths; these specimens average about 20 x 20 cm in size, a couple of them reaching 45 cm across. The specimens from 1970, which their handlers were calling "aragonites excentriques," are loose, twisted, rounded white stalks, some ramifying into dendritic formations, many topped by sparkling sprays of transparent, colorless, acicular crystals: these eccentrics reach 15 cm long. None of the aragonite specimens shows associated species; some have areas stained brown by iron oxides.
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Coming in through one of the two entrances to the main lower-level part of the theater building, one saw the diverse offerings of Jordi Fabre (www.fabreminerals.com) ranged down half a wall's worth of space. A new Spanish item here was a group of about 50 good specimens of scepter amethyst collected over the last two years from two sandstone quarries, one of them called the Massabe quarry, near the village of Sils, La Silva, Girona, Spain. The specimens range from single, loose, toenail-size milky quartz stalks topped by wide, deep purple amethyst scepters, to groups of sceptered prisms rising from matrix plates to 25 cm across. The luster is not of the highest, but the amethyst scepters are richly colored, and translucent to transparent.
In the June installment of "what's new in the mineral world," my online column on the Mineralogical Record website (www.MineralogicalRecord.com), I described the exciting October 2005 discovery of superb autunite specimens in a uraniferous pegmatite worked by the Nossa Senhora do Assuncao mine, near Ferreira de Aves, Viseu, Portugal--and the picture accompanying the report shows that these new autunites rival even the best of the old ones from the Daybreak mine, Washington and the Streuberg quarry, Germany. It was good to find out at Ste.-Marie that some top specimens from this discovery are still available on the market. About ten of them were on hand, brought in by the Portuguese dealership Geofil (email@example.com). Curved, bulging fans of parallel-growing, thin-tabular autunite crystals form brilliant yellow-green encrustations on matrix; individual fans reach 1.5 cm, and matrix pieces range from 3 to 12 cm.
The very rare zeolite species ferrierite (well, actually, ferrierite-K and ferrierite-Mg are different species, and it's not yet known which of these the new find represents) is found in attractive specimens pretty much exclusively at the Monastir roadfill quarry on Monte Olladri, near Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy. What must be the world's best ferrierite specimens were dug in the quarry in March and April 2006, and about 100 of them were being offered at Ste.-Marie by Giovanni Signorelli of Webminerals s.a.s. (www.webmineralshop.com). Bright orange to red-orange, smooth-surfaced, radial-aggregate spheres of ferrierite crystals with a medium to dull luster reach 2.5 cm in diameter; the spheres line seams in basalt, associated with microcrystals of heulandite and mordenite. Some matrix pieces have up to eight partly intergrown ferrierite spheres while others sport large single spheres, but in either case these are unusual and oddly appealing miniature-size specimens.
While not strictly "new," the six magnificent cabinet-size clusters of orange barite crystals from the Pohla mine, Obersachsen, Germany cry out for mention: at any rate they cried out pretty loudly to me from the stand of Marcus Grossmann Minerals (www.The-Mineral-Web.com) on the theater's lower level. Consisting of solid, flashing clusters of transparent, mostly doubly terminated barite crystals to 3.5 cm, these specimens are leftovers from the great finds at the Pohla mine in the 1980's. Also well-known by now--see the report from the 2006 Tucson Show--are the very spectacular groups of razor-sharp, brilliant red, prismatic realgar crystals found in December 2005 in one of the ancient mines at Baia Sprie, Maramures, Romania: a major selection of these, ranging from thumbnail to small-cabinet size, was being offered in the theater lobby by Luis Miguel Fernandez Burillo's Minerales dealership (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Morocco contributed four intriguing new things this time around. In May 2001, one of the many unusual skarn outcrops around the remote village of Imilchil produced several handfuls of loose, opaque beige to gray-white crystals of oligoclase, a member of the plagioclase series which only very rarely is found as euhedrons. The compound, blocky, elaborately grooved, thumbnail-size oligoclase crystals resemble slightly chewed-on artists' erasers, but nevertheless they were moving briskly to customers in the tent of Daniel Gol Mineraux (email@example.com). Secondly, Jordi Fabre and a couple of dealers in "Val Expo" had nice miniature specimens of chabazite very recently found near Imilchil, with sharp, shining, pinkish orange rhombohedral crystals to 1 cm forming cavity linings and making little heaps on matrix. And thirdly, in the tiny Iourirn gold mine near Tata, Morocco, Pierre Clavel and his wife Martine personally collected about 200 siderite specimens, the best of them very fine, in May 2006--just in time to bring them to Ste.-Marie and offer them at their stand, Pierre Clavel, Mineralogie & Prospection (firstname.lastname@example.org), on the theater's lower level. Lustrous, sharp, chocolate-brown rhombohedral crystals of siderite to 5 cm make parallel stacks, some with faden and chloritoid crystals of quartz, others with sharp white dolomite rhombs to 3 cm. According to Pierre, the paragenesis seen in the Iourirn mine is the same as the one in the well known Morro Velho gold mine in Brazil; however, the siderite/quartz specimens very strongly resemble classic old pieces from Allevard, Isere, France.
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The fourth new Moroccan entry is represented by a group of specimens picked up by Jordi Fabre during the show. Early in 2006 an old mine 1700 meters high in a mountain near the village of Tounfit, Boumia, Morocco gave up these lovely new specimens of fluorite, as lustrous, transparent crystals to 3 cm intergrown in cavity linings on massive fluorite. Some specimens show only simple cubic crystals of fluorite of a lush, very deep purple color. In other specimens, two generations of fluorite crystals are present, with shining deep purple octahedrons overlain by cuboctahedrons which are medium-purple with milky white zones; the points of the earlier crystals project slightly from the faces of the later crystals. These very attractive fluorite specimens range between 5 and 12 cm across.
Various skarn outcrops in the sub-Saharan scrublands of Kayes province, in western Mali, have been known for quite a few years now for their productions, sometimes very prolific, of grossular, epidote and prehnite specimens. The several flats of newly collected grossular crystals I found at this Ste.-Marie show may be unsurpassed for grossular crystals from Mali. The sharp, in most cases lustrous, dodecahedral crystals reach 25 cm across (very satisfying to heft in the hand), and some razor-sharp, perfectly formed, entirely complete crystals reach 14 cm. Most of the garnets are a rich, very dark brownish green; some are a paler green, but all are said to be grossular, not andradite, and not compositionally zoned, either. Thousands of the jumbo crystals were found sometime last year at the collecting site, which the handlers would only call "Kayes region." From the same site have come loose brushy groups, to 15 cm across, of very dark green, lustrous, compound crystals of epidote, and a few aggregates of intergrown prehnite spheres in the same size range. The specimens were collected by engineer Jean-Claude Villeneuve of Dakar, Senegal, with whom I could only converse with difficulty since we did not share a language; I did just a bit better in talking with Nicole Carre (Lusignan Grand, 47450 Saint Hilaire, France), who was handling the grossular specimens in one of the show's myriad little white "outside" tents.
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Recently there has been a new strike of beautiful malachite specimens in the Luishia mine in the Congo Republic: glowing green, chatoyant sunburst aggregates forming flat-lying parallel clusters to many centimeters across. Reportedly only about a dozen specimens have emerged, and at Ste.-Marie just a few were scattered, as loners, at different dealerships. This, then, is a first alert--but Jeff Scovil's photo ought to demonstrate why we should keep an eye out for more of these spectacular things.
Last fall's Munich Show (I'm told) saw the first appearance of specimens from a new discovery of very sharp orthoclase crystals "somewhere north of Usakos" (actually the Erongo Mountains), Namibia, and about 50 of these came to Ste.-Marie in 2006 with the Austrian dealership Kaiser (email@example.com). Single untwinned Carlsbad-law twins and small clusters, with individual crystals (all somewhat elongated) from 4 to 20 cm, are a clean chalk-white. Some surfaces show iron-oxide staining, and commonly there are adhering patches of warty white hyalite. In the same tent, Herb Kaiser showed me a nice selection of specimens of the now well known green andradite ("demantoid") crystals found embedded in chowdery quartz/feldspar/calcite matrix near Usakos, Namibia: the lustrous, part-gemmy, brownish green dodecahedral crystals in this lot reach 2 cm. The Kaiser specimens came out a few years ago, but according to Herb the mine is now starting to work again after a dormant period, and might soon yield plenty more crystals for gem cutters and mineral collectors to contend over.
Not for the first time, Laurent Thomas of Polychrom France (firstname.lastname@example.org) brought in a very beautiful, very hot new item from one of his several development projects in Madagascar. About a year ago, a small zone of pockets in igneous rocks near the village of Tetikana, near the larger town of Ambatofinandrahana in south-central Madagascar, yielded about 50 specimens of epitactic hematite overgrowths on rutile; the brilliant prismatic rutile crystals are mostly thumbnail size, but the largest so far found is 9 cm long. The hematite crystals, also highly lustrous, are jet-black plates with hexagonal outlines; some are found as floaters in pockets, but the superstar specimens are those in which the hematite crystals are lightly attached in series to the rutile prisms. At Ste.-Marie, Laurent had only a handful of representatives of the find, mostly thumbnails, stashed under his table. He is still working on pricing them, as well as continuing (naturally) to explore for more pockets at the locality. Meanwhile, however, he was selling about 20 superb crystal clusters, miniature to small-cabinet size, of shining, transparent blue celestine from the Katsepy mine, Majunga, Madagascar, with geode linings sporting individual celestine crystals to 10 cm. Madagascar celestine is nothing new, you say, but wait: the habit of these crystals is quite different from the stout, wedge-terminated shapes we are used to seeing from the famous Sakoany mine. The new crystals are elongated and tapered, with very steep pyramid faces coming almost to points, and thus the groups look distinctly odd, even at a first glance, for Madagascar celestine. Laurent says that the geodes with the tapered crystals were dug in mid-February 2006.
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Having gotten down into the bottom of Africa we will now leapfrog to South America. Jordi Fabre (see earlier under amethyst) had some nice sphalerite and galena specimens found earlier in 2006 in the Santa Rita mine, Morococha district, Yauli province, Lima department, Peru. In the special Peru Issue of July-August 1997 the authors write "Sphalerite from Santa Rita is frequently gemmy, with a bright luster and a yellowish green color. Crystals may exceed 2 cm. Microcrystalline, pale pink rhodochrosite is the matrix"--and that describes these new pieces, except that the gemmy 2.5-cm sphalerite crystals are more honey-brown than yellow. The new Santa Rita mine galena occurs as lustrous, crested groups of parallel-growth crystals, the crests to 3 cm across, in cabinet-size matrix coverages.
Besides the Pohla mine barites already mentioned, Marcus Grossmann had an even more exciting item: four loose, gemmy butterfly twins, large thumbnails and small toenails, of phosphophyllite from Cerro Rico de Potosi, Bolivia (the phosphyphyllite locality). The crystals show some chipping and are not maximally lustrous, but still are very impressive, especially considering that they are leftovers from a significant pocket discovered, according to Marcus, not 40 or 50 but just 5 years ago.
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Jordi Fabre (again) had two promising new Brazilian discoveries from early in 2006. From the Boa Vista mine (a phosphate pegmatite) in Galileia, Minas Gerais comes variscite as bright red druses of microcrystals colorfully resting on a matrix of purple strengite and other rare phosphates. And from a place called Berilandia, Quixeramobim, in Ceara state on the eastern bulge of Brazil, come very pretty specimens showing green/red color-zoned crystals of elbaite to 6 cm girdled by sharp, pale lilac "books" of lepidolite--only a tiny number of these have emerged so far.
And so to Asia, from which came some of this show's best new discoveries of all. Occupying a modest tablespace over in one of the Val Expo areas I found an Indian dealer new to me. Suresh Pande, proprietor of Spark Minerals India (email@example.com), told me that he hasn't yet attended the Tucson or Denver shows. If he does so in future, I hope he brings more of the new crystals of powellite which he had in France; these were found, he says, in early 2006 in a well-digging at Jamner, near Jalgaon, in India's zeolite-bearing Deccan Plateau. The powellite crystals are loose, complete floaters, with white sprigs of scolecite protruding a millimeter or so here and there, and they are razor-sharp, textbook examples of tetragonal bipyramids, with c axes about 1.25 times as long as a and b. The crystals are lustrous and lightly striated, and come in hefty sizes from about 2 to almost 5 cm along c. The only comparative shortcoming is that they are not yellow-orange and gemmy as might be wished, but milky white and translucent. Nevertheless these are excellent powellite specimens, ideal for the "single crystal" collectors.
Andreas Weerth (www.weerth-mineralien.de) had samples from a new titanite/epidote discovery made in April 2006 somewhere near Warsak in the Khyber Agency, Pakistan. What was obviously an Alpine cleft-type occurrence produced long-prismatic epidote crystals along whose sides have formed dense stacks of discoidal titanite crystals in parallel growth. The titanite crystals are pale brown, translucent and lustrous, and individuals reach 3 cm across. Andreas had only one 10-cm specimen left, having sold the few others he'd had before I got to his stand in the theater's lower level. Even more beautiful were some miniature specimens of almandine-spessartine on schorl, both species performing brilliantly: the garnets are flashing, deep red, part-gemmy trapezohedrons to 2.5 cm, and the schorl crystals on whose prism faces they rest are bright black (however, one or both ends of most of the schorls are broken off). About 50 lush red/black specimens of this kind were collected three years ago from a pegmatite somewhere near Skardu, Northern Areas, Pakistan, and by the time of the 2006 Ste.-Marie Show only six pieces remained to be ogled in the Barras-Gautier Mineraux booth (BGM3@wanadoo.fr).
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Plenty of mineral folks are excited about the new world-class specimens of liddicoatite tourmaline (some crystals with elbaite cores) from the Minh Tien pegmatite, Luc Yen district, Yenbai province, Vietnam. In an article in the May-June 2006 issue, Dudley Blauwet describes his visit to this remote region of northernmost Vietnam, and you can see a picture of a fine Minh Tien liddicoatite specimen in the June installment of the "what's new in the mineral world" online column. At Ste.-Marie, about 20 magnificent specimens were being offered on the theater's lower level by Frederic Escaut (firstname.lastname@example.org); the largest of them measures 14 x 14 x 14 cm. This lot of specimens (and the big specimen pictured on the website) is co-owned by Frederic Escaut and Dan Weinrich. The near-parallel, slightly divergent bundles of brilliant red, highly lustrous, prismatic liddicoatite crystals have roughly trigonal composite outlines. All but one of the 20 or so pieces Frederic had are lone bundles free of matrix, but in the other piece a 12-cm bundle rests on a bed of shining bluish white muscovite. Word is that the August 2005 discovery from which these specimens came gave up 73 major liddicoatites, 45 of which were taken out without damage. Probably it is now fair to say that the little Minh Tien pegmatite produces the world's finest display specimens of this rare tourmaline species, surpassing the superficially dark, thick, typically broken-off single crystals from Madagascar that only display well when slabbed.
I will conclude this report with China, as is my custom. This Ste.-Marie Show, like every other big mineral show for about the past 15 years, had many things from China, familiar and new, to offer. I will spend most of the rest of my space here on just one of the many dealers simply because he had the most interesting new Chinese things (besides which, he bought me a beer). In the cool, fluted shade inside his white tent, Rene Daulon (email@example.com) showed me flats full of fine specimens of familiar things (hematoid quartz from Jinkouhe, cassiterite and aquamarine from Mt. Xuebaoding, fluorite from Xianghuapu, etc.), interspersed with exotica such as a miniature matrix specimen from the Xianghualing mine from which rises a dull white, 1.5-cm euhedron of the very rare hsianghualite, and a winning thumbnail consisting of two intergrown, sharp, hexagonal plates of brilliant metallic molybdenite from near the town of Dayu, Jiangxi province.
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As far as I could see, Rene was one of only two dealers at the show (the other was Bert Ottens' Ottens Mineralien, firstname.lastname@example.org) having superb loose crystals of scheelite from a discovery made in early 2006 at the Xianghualing fluorite mine near Chenzhou, Hunan. These are loose, extremely sharp pseudo-octahedrons of scheelite in sizes from thumbnail to more than 5 cm. Most of the crystals are colored an unusual purplish brown, but a small number of them are milky white, and all are sleekly lustrous--and so we have here another major Chinese scheelite locality to add to Mt. Xuebaoding (with its gemmy orange scheelites), and we have something more to look forward to from the Xianghualing mine than just fluorite and calcite.
Finally, Rene Daulon had a major stash, piled up on a table against his tent's inside wall, of ten or so flats full of outstanding specimens of babingtonite from the outcrop occurrence at Meigu, Sichuan province. The matrix plates, from miniature to large-cabinet size, are blanketed by flashing black crystals to 5 cm. As is well known by now, babingtonite crystals from Meigu resemble enargite crystals in form, i.e. they are columnar, with flat terminations, and lightly striated. Like the old babingtonites from the Lane quarry, Massachusetts and the Roncari quarry, Connecticut, those from Meigu are associated with apple-green prehnite, commonly forming pretty spheres, and with colorless prisms of quartz. Rene's supply was both lavish--there were hundreds of specimens--and of a very high quality. He spoke also of a few super-specimens from the same recent find, with individual babingtonite crystals reaching 7.5 cm.
An exciting occurrence of wire silver on acanthite also turned up at the show. These are from a new Chinese locality in Shanxi province, called the Hongda manganese mine (Hong Da Meng Kuang) near the village of Quguo in Lingqui County. The mining operation is fairly large, employing over 1,000 miners working on four major levels. Silver was discovered in the area in 1987, and the deposit has also proved rich in manganese (currently the principal ore), lead and zinc. Frederic Escaut had good specimens at the show; Bryan Lees of Collector's Edge Minerals back in Golden, Colorado has also obtained a substantial lot of close to 2,000 specimens. Most of these are of rather low quality, but Bryan did manage to cull out about five flats of very nice pieces in the 3 to 5-cm range. The silver wires range from rather thin to nearly a centimeter in diameter and 7-8 cm long (if they were to be unrolled). The associated acanthite is typically rather corroded-looking (probably the result of heat-induced breakdown which spawned the silver wires), though some crystals have lustrous portions of faces remaining. Bright galena crystals 1-4 cm also occur there, but are not considered valuable by the miners.
So au revoir, wiedersehen, bon soir, gluck auf, and all that sort of thing from Ste.-Marie-aux-Mines. Yes, it's a long way to come for U.S. collectors, gasoline for rental cars is shockingly expensive, and the Euro-dollar exchange rate was a handicap for Americans this year. But any serious collector owes himself/herself the experience of this heady show. Your Amstel Lager is waiting for you in the first big refreshment tent ahead as you round the theater to your right.
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|Title Annotation:||What's New in Minerals|
|Publication:||The Mineralogical Record|
|Date:||Sep 1, 2006|
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