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LAON's Review of English Opencast Site Applications for March 2013

Steve Leary | 02.04.2013 14:14 | Climate Chaos | Energy Crisis | Social Struggles | Birmingham | Sheffield

This review highlights recent developments affecting new opencast site applications in England. it includes news that the first Health Impact Assessment for a new opencast site in England for 4 years is underway in Wakefield for the Deanfield Site. The Judicial Appeal over the Halton Lea Gate decision makes progress and coal extraction by surface methods could return to Walsall as part of the process of reclaiming and remediating the Phoenix 10 / IMI Coppper Works site.


2013 SERIES: No 3.1 2/4/13

From June 2012 to January 2013 a monthly review was published that grew to cover the whole of the UK, and by January it had reached 35 pages and was becoming unwieldy and imposing a strain on meeting the end of month deadline by which all information on all the sites had to be checked. The decision was taken to split the review into three parts, one covering England to be published on or just after the 1st of the month, the Scottish part to be published on or just after the 10th of the month and the Welsh part to be published on of just after the 20th of each month.

On the date this review was published these were the number of opencast sites under consideration in:

In the Public Domain in the English Planning System 13
In the Public Domain in the Scottish Planning System 14
In the Public Domain in the Welsh Planning System 4
Approved sites, but still inactive after 2 years (Scotland)) 3
Mothballed site: Scotland 1
Derelict Sites: England 2
Derelict Site: Scotland 1
Derelict Site: Wales 1

This is the way to read each entry on potential or actual opencast sites:
Site Name, Location, Planning Authority, Position in the Planning System (either Scoping Inquiry, Application Submitted, Application Approved), the name of the Applicant / Operator and the size.


BIRKLANDS, (nr .Marley Hill, Gateshead), (Gateshead) : Reference No DC/11/00687/MIN) (Application) (Hall Construction Services) (275,000) (34.8 hectares)

Last news on this site 8/2/13: An email from Gateshead Council indicated that a revised application was to be submitted shortly.

‘Opencast, the threat returns’ (local action group) (no date)
Not a news story, but an on line petition that can be signed to show opposition to open casting at this proposed 275,000 tonne site. See
You can read this application and still make comments here:;jsessionid=DE0DA6F1C3739817D51414835242B0FC?action=firstPage

BRADLEY (nr. Consett) (Co Durham) (Judicial Review due in June) (UK Coal) (500,000) (68 hectares)

‘UK Coal awaits planning permission decisions’ (Argus Media 14/3/13) @

An update on the progress being made by UK Coal Surface Mining on gaining permission for new opencast sites+ progress being made at the Minorca site and what the annual surface mine production of UK Coal Mining is.

Total amount of coal for which planning permission is being sought is 6mt
Decision Dates;

Hoodsclose – May, Bradley – June, Marley Hill and Deansfield – later this year.
Minorca production - 6000 tonnes a week

Overall surface mine production – 1.8mt

COMMENT: Is this story just a coincidence, or is the Company seeking to reassure interested parties that it is still a going concern? What is clear, is that the loss of Daw Mill’s production is equal to the entire surface mine coal produced annually. Note, no mention of a date for Shortwood Farm as yet. It may herald the start of a bigger push for more surface mine coal production. The other coincidental event was that there were questions to the Energy Ministers about the implications for the coal industry arising from the closure of Daw Mill on the same day.

DEANFIELD (West of New Sharlston, Wakefield) (Wakefield) (Scoping Inquiry) (UK Coal) (1.180,000 tonnes) (138 hectares) (Ref No 13/00006/MIN) (Case Officer : Ian Garrett

Details about the Application can be viewed here:

‘UK Coal awaits planning permission decisions’ (Argus Media 14/3/13) @

See comment made on this news item at BRADLEY ABOVE

Due to local residents making points about health issues in relation to this application at a meeting of the Normanton Area Forum, Wakefield Council has agreed to conduct a Health Impact Assessment on the health risks associated with this Application, to be conducted by john Wilcox. A survey form has already been issued on 21/3/13 You can see a copy of it here:

and Wakefield Council has used Twitter to advertise the existence of the survey here:

After discussing this development with the Case Officer, it seems that this is an imitative with which UK Coal Surface Mining are fully cop-operating. A joint steering group, composed of local residents, including George Banham, Chairperson of the Stop Opencast at Sharston group and UK Coal Surface Mining are members. In a statement attached to the survey form, John Wilcox states;

“A Health Impact Assessment, sometimes called an HIA for short, is a means of judging all the ways a proposal might effect the health and wellbeing of various different groups of people. This can include looking at both negative impacts, that make people’s health worse and positive impacts, that act to improve people’s health.

Health Impact Assessments also looks at what actions can be taken to increase the positive effects and reduce the negative effects of a proposal.

Health Impact Assessments try to involve every group who may be affected by a proposal including those making the proposal, groups against the proposal and local residents.”

COMMENT: This is a major recent development in the English planning process for new opencast sites. This is not a first for England, one was undertaken before for the Huntington Lane site in Telford and Wrekin in 2009 and such assessments are a regular feature of similar Welsh applications, but they are rare in England. What may be important is that with the recent reorganisation of health care in England, with Public Health returning to Local Government control along with the emphasis in the National Planning Policy Framework on the interrelationship between planning and health and well being that this model of co-operation can be replicated as other planning applications come forward for new opencast mines.

DEARNE LEA, WEST CLAYTON (S.E. of Huddersfield) (Kirklees Council: Reference No. 2012/62/9113/ED) (Application) (George Harrison Ltd) (190,000) (18.8 hectares)

Last news 27/12/12 ‘Heritage group object to Clayton West mine plan’ (Huddersfield Daily Examiner) @

To contact the Skelmansthorpe Community Action Group see:

For more details on the Application and the possibility to make a comment go to:

FERNEYBEDS, WIDDRINGTON STATION (8 miles NW of Ashington) (Northumberland County Council) (Application) (Banks Group) (750,000) (95.6 hectares)

‘Widdrington opencast site set for go-ahead’ (The Journal, 26/3/13) @

Approval is likely to be given for Banks to work this site after the Case officer recommends approval for this site in a NCC report on the Application due to be determined next week. Local opinion on approval is split, with one local Parish Council in favour and one against. If approved, 70 years of continuous opencast mining in the area will be continued by at least 3 more years.

FIELD HOUSE, WEST RAINTON (c 4 miles NE of Durham) (Durham County Council / Sunderland City Council) (Pre Scoping Inquiry) (Hargreaves Services) (500,000) (52 hectares)

‘Petition against Pittington Opencast Plan ‘ (Northern Echo, 7/3/13)

Latest news on developments associated with this proposal reports that two County Councillors have launched a petition against the proposal, Cllrs Carol Woods and Maureen Wood (Sherbourn) whilst a LAON representative is to meet Cllr Bill Kellett on the 11/3/13.

COMMENT: I had a really good meeting with Bill and a number of local people where we discussed the next stage in how to develop the campaign.

‘ More Pittington opencast exhibitions’ (Northern Echo, 19/3/13) @

Two more Public Exhibitions on this proposal have been organised for April by Hargreaves. They are at:

St Cuthberts Parish Hall, Sth. Street, East Rainton, 3/4/13 between 4-7pm and

Moorsely Village Centre, Moorsly Rd., Moorsly, 8/4/13 between 4-7pm

More information this site from Hargreaves Services Surface Mining Field House @

Public Consultation Leaflet on the Field House Proposal @

GREAT OAK, AUDLEY, STAFFORDSHIRE (Staffordshire County Council) (Scoping Inquiry) (UK Coal surface Mining) (450,000) (84 Hectares)

‘Mine plan threatens Talke’ (Cllr Kyle Robinson’s blog, 4/3/13) @

A local Councillor lends his weight and the weight of the Talke Labour Group and another local MP, Joan Walley to the CAGOO campaign to prevent this application, when it comes, from succeeding. Its good to see that this blog is also advertising the protest march on 16/3/13

‘Staffordshire coal mine plans show ’lack of respect’ (BBC News Stoke and Staffordshire, 7/3/13) @

The BBC bear witness to the local strength of feeling as they film a protest outside the last Public Exhibition organised by UK Coal Surface Mining on the proposed Great Oak site. It reports that one of the main local concerns is the proximity of the site to the bodies of those drown in the 1895 Diglake disaster. UK Coal’s spokesperson however suggests

“ the proposed opencast mine would only go down 20m (65ft), with the disaster site 145m (470ft) below. Mr Bolton said the company could "absolutely guarantee" it would not come across the bodies if the mining operation went ahead.”

‘Massive machines will be coming and going all day’ (The Sentinel, 7/3/13) @

Another news report, on the Public Exhibition / Protest Meeting held yesterday at Talke Pits. This gives more emphasis to the environmental and health concerns of local residents. UK Coal emphasise the number of local jobs the development will create and that they always listen to local residents concerns.

Tristram Hunt: The ugly, polluting plan for opencast mining in Bignall End (map) (The Sentinel, 11/3/13) @

Another local MP Tristram Hunt (Stoke –on –Trent) gives his opinion on whether this mine is necessary, given that there is still a need for coal, all be it in diminishing amounts He concludes

“However, the real threat is that this is a scoping exercise by UK Coal – and once they have started digging, a much larger application will go in to exploit the greater North Staffordshire coal bed.

Even if the Great Oak Surface Mine is indeed a time-limited, specific application, it will still mean enormous disruption and pollution for local residents.

It seems to me that if the people of Bignall End are going to take the hit for our broader energy needs, then they should be compensated. The high fields of Great Oak don't just need to be returned to their former condition, the profits of UK Coal need to go to support community infrastructure projects.

If local people are able to profit from the renaissance of King Coal, then across the country these kind of difficult planning problems might prove a lot easier to solve. Our ability to wean ourselves from an over-dependence upon fossil fuels will prove a much harder task.

COMMENT: If only the problem was a one off, only affecting Bignall End and UK Coal was that profitable company Tristram Hunt imagined.

‘Bignell End mine protesters stage march in Audley’ (BBC News, Stoke and Staffordshire, 16/3/13) @
As local people marched in protest against UK coal’s plans the two opposing sides had this to say:

“Claire Hansbury, leading the campaign group, told BBC News that UK Coal has got "the wrong site and the wrong idea" and should drop its proposals.”
Whilst David Green from UK Coal said

“ the company was sensitive to the colliery disaster and the bodies would not be disturbed.

"We are absolutely certain that we will not be disturbing the parts of the mine that were being mined on the day of the disaster," he said.

"We could not go down that deep."

He said the bodies are 120m (393ft) down and UK Coal plans to only reach 40m (131ft).”

‘Hundreds join protest march to stop opencast mine’ (The Sentinel, 17/3/13) @

More than 300 hundred people turn out on the march to show the strength of local feeling against the plan to opencast the Gt.Oak site.

“Their protest included a minute’s silence overlooking the earmarked opencast site where dozens of miners had decades earlier died in a colliery disaster.”

COMMENT: This turn out is tribute to the hard work that has been put into organising this campaign, which looks as if it is going from strength to strength.

‘MP joins protestors fighting opencast mining plans’ (Paul Farrelly MP’s Web Site, 18/3/13) @

Newcastle under Lyme MP reports on his views on the Great Oak Opencast proposal and his attendance on the walk on 16/3/13.

‘Disruption for a tiny bit of coal’ (Letter, The Sentinel, 18/3/13) @

A letter written in support of the CAGOO campaign.

‘Fund raiser to fight mine plan’ (The Sentinel, 20/3/13) @

CAGOO are to hold a music festival this weekend to raise money for their campaign.

‘UK Government’s Chief Scientist advises against opencast mining at Bignall End’ (North Staffordshire Green Party, 26/3/13)


The North Staffordshire Green Party, in announcing their support for the CAGOO campaign link together recent statements made by the UK Government’s Chief Scientific Advisor, Professor, Sir John Beddington on the risks posed by global warming and the need to take urgent action to the possibility of opencast mining at Bignall End.

‘Local residents campaign against UK Coal at Great Oak’ (Cagoo / Coal Action Network / Indymedia, 26/3/13) @

A joint CAGOO / Coal Action Network news item explaining more reasons why local people are against this UK Coal proposal.

To contact the Campaign Against Great Oak Opencast go to: or email CAGOO

There is also a web site ‘SAVE GREAT OAK’ under development. This is a link:

HAGUE FARM (?) off Hague Lane nr Renishaw, Derbyshire (no estimate of size)
UK Coal has put this site up for sale. The particulars indicate that they are seeking a partner to help ‘develop’ (work the site as a surface mine) within 5 years. Site particulars are available here @

HALTON LEA GATE (c 5 miles SW of Haltwhistle) (Northumberland County Council) (Judicial Inquiry) (HM Developments) (140,000) (75 acres)

‘Village launches fighting fund’ (Whitehaven News / Hexham Courant , 27/3/13) @

A report that explains that a campaign to raise at least £17,000 to finance a Judicial Review over the Halton Lea Gate decision will begin in earnest over the Easter Weekend. This is because Hartleyburn Parish Council, one of the main local organisers of the campaign, has secured documentation from the Queen’s bench division of the High Court that would limit the Parish Council’s liability for costs, should the judicial review fail, to £10,000.

“At last Wednesday’s meeting, Coun. Jeremy Ancketill said documentation had been received from the Queen’s bench division of the High Court, in London.
He explained: “It limits the liability to £10,000 plus VAT, and that is the maximum we would have to pay in a worst case scenario.

“The hearing itself could cost up to £17,000 so now we have to press ahead with raising those funds.” “

To contrite to the cost of fighting this Judicial Review, please make cheques payable to

North Pennine Protection Group, Account no:01014587, Sort code: 40-23-06 and send to: 5 High Midgeholme, Brampton, Cumbria. CA8 7LT

HILLTOP PROJECT (nr. Clay Cross, Derbyshire) (Derbyshire County Council) ( Scoping Inquiry) (Provectus Remediation) (130,000) (30 hectares)

Some updating of the information about this application has come to my notice.
In January 2013, Provectus published a newsletter outlining the developments being made with its Application and tits version of the results of the Company’s discussion with both the Ashover Light Railways Society and the Holmgates Tenants and Residents Group. You can read this information here :

The Hilltop Action Groups response to this latest newsletter can be read here:
‘New Year Update’ (Hilltop Action Group, January 2013) @

Provectus Remediation has indicated that they are intending to submit a plan to mine 130,000 tonnes of coal from a 30 hectare site over a 30 month period.
To keep in touch with the protest campaign, go to

HOODS CLOSE Whittonstall (Northumberland County Council) (Application) (UK Coal) (500,000) (208 hectares) (Ref No C/10/00255/CCMEIA)

UK Coal hopes to extract 2.2m tonnes of coal and 500,000 tonnes of fireclay over a seven year period. The Scoping Inquiry state began soon after August 2009 with an application following in 2010. This is still a live application.

A letter I missed from Pitch Wilson for the February Review:
‘Whittonstall: Destruction’ (Whitehaven News, 6/2/13) @

Pitch Wilson, a well known North East England anti opencast campaigner puts a different interpretation on what the effect of opencast mining will be on the local Whittonstall community should planning permission be granted, in contrast to the comments made by Simon Taylor, Director UK Coal Surface Mining that implied that surface mining has a minimal impact. I’ve searched for the original article on line, but I cannot find it in the Whitehaven News.

However, I can find a reference to Simon Taylor indicating in a statement made in January 2013 in relation to the Hoodsclose Application that

“ He believes it is vital as much of that demand as possible is met by indigenous supplies which lie a few metres below the surface over large areas of the North-East and Yorkshire.”

See ‘Whittonstall: Making the Case for Coal Mining in the Countryside’ (North West Evening Gazette, 23/1/13) @

‘Shotley Low Quarter Parish Council : Parish Blog, Parish Notes,March 2013’ (Shotley Low Quarter Parish Council, 5/3/13) @

Shortley Low Quarter Parish Council expresses concern over two issues to do with the Application. Firstly, that only 5 of the 15 NCC Councillors on the Central Planning committee went on the recent site visit and secondly

“ pressing the NCC Planning Department to seek clarification on the financial status and long-term viability of Coalfield Resources PLC (formerly known at UK Coal), with a view to obtain a financial guarantee for the restoration and after-care costs of the site if planning consent is approved.”

This Parish Council also makes it clear
“ that no level of community benefits will ever outweigh the potential negative effects this development will have on our local community.”

‘UK Coal awaits planning permission decisions’ (Argus Media 14/3/13) @

See comment made on this news item at BRADLEY ABOVE

You can find further information and make a make a comment here:

You can also contact the Whittonstall Action Group here:

MARLEY HILL COLLIERY RECLAMATION (Sunnyside, Gateshead (Co Durham also affected), (Application) (UK Coal) (c1.0m) (118 hectares)

‘UK Coal awaits planning permission decisions’ (Argus Media 14/3/13) @

See comment made on this news item at BRADLEY ABOVE

‘Petition launched against Gateshead’s opencast mining plan’ (Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 26/3/13) @

300 people have already signed the petition launched by local politicians (see below)

A petition opposing this application has now been launched (c 20/3/13) by the local Liberal Democrat Councillors to oppose the Marley Hill application. You can sign the petition here:

MINORCA NORTH (Leicestershire, Leicestershire County Council, UK Coal, Amount of estimated coal reserves not published, Stage: Exploratory Drilling) (no estimate of size)

Last news 10/11/12

SCHOOLHOUSE LANE off A692 nr Marley Hill , Co Durham

It now seems that this site has been sold in February 2013. This is a 2,952 acre site with 6.8m tonnes of coal, opposite where the Bungalow is on Schoolhouse Lane. For more information see these particulars from the Fisher German website:
‘School House Lane, Marley Hill, Newcastle Upon Tyne, Durham, NE16’ @

SHORTWOOD FARM (Trowell, nr Nottingham, Nottinghamshire) (Application) (UK Coal) (1,275,000) ) (130 hectares)

UK Coal has applied to mine 1,275,000 tonnes of coal over a 5yr period on a Greenfield site.

Last news 16/11/12

To send a letter opposing this application, go to:

There is now a local group formed to oppose this application, the Shortwood Farm Opencast Opposition. It is contactable via
To find out more about the Application see:

WELL HILL FARM, STANNINGTON (nr Morpeth) (Northumberland County Council) (Judicial Review?) (130,000) (Hargreaves Services)

English Derelict Sites

KEEKLE HEAD (Cumbria) Last news item on this unrestored site

Latest news: ‘Radioactive dump plan for West Cumbria rejected’ (BBC News Cumbria, 9/5/12) @

DENTON FELL (Ref no 1/89/0866) (Cumbria) An enforcement notice was issued in 1999. The unrestored site featured on BBC’s Countryfile programme broadcast on September 30th 2012.

(Thanks go to Jeremey Ackertill for forwarding this information)

English Unrestored Sites

PEGSWOOD MOOR (Northumberland County Council) (Banks)

This is the Saga of the Leaking Lake. On ceasing coaling at this site in 2004, Banks was to create a Country Park with a 12 acres lake suitable for boating and sailing. However by 2006 it was clear that the lake was leaking. In 2011 Banks started a public consultation exercise on their plans to now restore the site, without a lake using a landfill operation that would result in 40 to 80 lorries a day entering the site.

Latest news: ‘Controversial landfill proposal for leaking Pegswood Lake’ (Journal 27/2/13) @

NEWS EXTRA THE JAMES BRIDGE COPPER FOUNDRY / PHOENIX 10, WALSALL (Walsall Metropolitan Council / Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership) (Expression of Interest) (Walsall Council).)(34 Acres)

Information about the possibility of this site, alleged to be one of the most contaminated sites in Europe appeared in the first and third issue of this News Review. Then, the suspicion was that in order to make it economic to decontaminate the site and make it fit for redevelopment, it would be surfaced mined. The site is on land which is heavily contaminated, near residential areas between junctions 9 and 10 of the M6 in The Black Country. The site has again been in the news recently.

Item 1 ‘Council to take over Walsall’s business park plan’ (Express and star, 14/3/13) @

Walsall Council moves to take over adjacent land It does not own to make the redevelopment more viable.

Item 2 ‘Council unveils plans to lead the Phoenix 10 project’ (Walsall Council, 18/3/13) @

“ Walsall Council has unveiled plans to take a major lead on the development of the multi-million pound transformation of the Phoenix 10 site.

Decision makers at the council's Cabinet on Wednesday (13 March 2013) approved plans for the local authority to take on the land off Darlaston Road and Reservoir Place. The council will now procure the services of a specialist contractor to reclaim the land and develop the site as a business park.......”.

Item 3 Walsall Council’s Cabinet Minutes: Phoenix 10, 13/3/13 @

Extract from the minutes

" Reclamation Options
3.4 In order to clarify the preferred reclamation method DTZ commissioned Wardell Armstrong to review three possible options for the main 37 acre site:

1) Do minimum – undertaking the minimum requirements for remediation works necessary to satisfy the Environment Agency’s ongoing concerns in relation to polluted groundwater associated with the HCA land and deal with contamination on the Council’s land.

2) Grout and Cap – the remediation of surface soils, treatment and stabilisation of known mineshafts/mineworkings and addressing polluted groundwater by pumping.

3) Ground excavation – the excavation of made ground and natural materials (including incidental coal reserves) to remove all mineshafts/mineworkings and enable the treatment of polluted groundwater.

Wardell Armstrong’s review considered the timescale, cost, risks and outcome of each reclamation method and concluded that option 3 provides the most appropriate means of dealing with the ground engineering issues for the Phoenix 10 site for the following reasons:

It is considered the most comprehensive solution by the Environment Agency.

The approach to the treatment of both known and unknown mineworkings, and groundwater mean that a viable development site can be created.

Options 1 and 2 would result in issues relating to the ability to provide appropriate warranties. Option 3 would therefore result in the most marketable site
The timescale for reclamation would be no longer than options 1 and 2.

The costs of reclamation are comparable to option 2 but these can be
mitigated by coal revenues.(my emphasis)

The treatment of groundwater in relation to options 1 and 2 creates a run off liability of up to 15 years which would clearly impact on future market interest”

Later in the minutes, under 7.3, it is acknowledged that any plan to redevelop the site will generate the need for an Environmental Impact Assessment.

COMMENT: It does now look as if coal extraction is to take place on this site as a means of both remediating the land and offsetting some of the cost of that remediation. As this is the case, this site will now reappear in our main list of prospective opencast sites.

LAON will keep watching for any new developments associated with this site in case moves are made which would lead to a plan to surface mine the site.

‘Landslip spoil heap has stopped moving says firm behind colliery’ (Yorkshire Post, 4/3/13) @

First mention of a threat to Hatfield Pit, though not by Hargreaves who operate the pit:

“Local residents have spoken of safety concerns since the land slip happened and National Union of Mineworkers officials have raised fears that the cost of remedying the problem may lead to the closure of the colliery – which is one of the last deep mines in operation in the country.”

The remediation of the site may not be completed until June.


‘Mining counties have higher death rates’ study says (Clarkson Gazette (W Virginia), 13/3/13)

The results of a new study into the health of local residents living near surface mine sites in the Appalachian mountains, funded by the coal industry found:

Higher rates of mortality in coal-mining counties compared to non-coal mining counties for total mortality, and all cancer, respiratory cancer, diabetes and heart-disease mortality.

Higher rates of mortality in non-coal mining counties for kidney cancer and stroke.

Higher rates of non-cancer respiratory disease mortality among males, but not females, in coal-mining counties, perhaps indicative of occupational diseases such as black lung.

However the authors are cautious to blame exposure to the side effects of surface mining as the prime cause of the difference in mortality rates.

A briefing on the study's results was posted online Wednesday by the Virginia Tech-based Appalachian Research Initiative for Environmental Science, or ARIES, project.

This is the link to the research bulletin ARIES Research Bulletin 2:’ Mortality Rates In Appalachian Coal Mining Counties’ @


This is a long term project to develop a deep mine for coking coal on the Dumfries-Galloway / Cumbrian border between Canobie and Longtown on the Canonbie Coalfield by New Age Exploration, an Australian company.

‘LOCHINVAR COKING COAL PROJECT Successful Initial Drill Hole’ (12/3/13 @

“NAE Managing Director, Gary Fietz commented: “The completion of drill hole LOI-001 and successful twinning the NCB Bogra hole, marks a major milestone for NAE. We are now confident that the historic NCB drilling can be replicated and historic thicknesses and depths are JORC compliant. The Nine Foot seam intersection containing 2.85m coal within a 3.41m seam from 311.6m depth is very exciting and - Lochinvar.

This is a great initial result from the Phase 1a drilling program. We havealready commenced drilling of the second hole and look forward to announcing further results”.”



Contacting LAON

Steve Leary LAON’Ss Co-ordinator, at

You can now follow LAON on Twitter @


Unless otherwise stated, this has been researched and complied by Steve Leary

© Steve Leary

Steve Leary
- e-mail:

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