Economic Aspects of Comprehensive Assessment of Mineral Resource Projects
Author's Article Tretyakov A.V. Accepted for publication in the journal "Economic Sciences" No. 2023/10 (227)
Economic Aspects of Comprehensive Assessment of Mineral Resource Projects
Abstract: The article explores theoretical concepts and practical recommendations for evaluating the efficiency of utilizing mineral resource projects, including from a regional perspective. Based on the results of the conducted research, the fundamental principles for efficiency evaluation and the implications of implementing projects of this type in the Russian mineral resource complex were determined. Through the analysis of the dynamics of the overall economic situation and qualitative and quantitative indicators, the author concludes that the Russian resource-based economy is undergoing another transformation. The transition from direct economic growth to the concept of sustainable development is being realized through the establishment of a new, integral, and complex system for evaluating enterprises in the mineral resource sector. Objective criteria for evaluating the economic efficiency of projects in the field of mineral resource extraction and processing are being formed. The author believes that the methodology he developed, based on a cognitive model, will enhance the efficiency of evaluating projects of this type under contemporary conditions.
Keywords: mineral resource enterprise, efficiency assessment, project approach, economic efficiency, comprehensive assessment, infrastructure facility, methodological tools, integral indicator.
Despite the ongoing sanctions policy of unfriendly Western countries aimed at Russian mineral resource enterprises, the Russian Federation remains one of the world's largest suppliers of mineral resources, which serves as the foundation for the Russian economy and the country's sustainable development. Currently, up to 70 percent of foreign currency inflows into the domestic budget are generated by the production of Russian mineral resource enterprises (Sokolov et al, 2023). Achieving strategic objectives for ensuring high economic growth rates and the development of priority national projects in Russia requires significant budget financing and capital investments, which necessitates the growing need for the utilization of mineral resources. These natural resources can be effectively used for the sustainable development of the economy, society, and human capital only through quality and efficient government management(Litvinenko et al., 2023; Litvinenko, 2020).
Sustainable development requires the rapid and widespread implementation of new technologies that enhance the efficiency of mineral resource utilization and reduce their negative impact on the environment (Ali et al., 2017). Therefore, the current global agenda includes the transformation of all economic and social relationships related to the transition to sustainable development.
At the same time, the global proliferation of modern high-tech production and management structures necessitates a significant priority in studying and analyzing the problem field of cognitive security for both national and regional societies, as well as individuals. This issue, comprehensively researched in the publications of T.A. Khagurov, to some extent concerns the permanent ability of the state, the economy, and society to adapt and operationalize a comprehensive and systemic view of the world, assimilate multi-format information, be aware of, preserve, and transmit to future generations not only global but also national and regional identity, as well as traditional, local values based on the principles of the functioning of the logocentric cognitive matrix (Bederkhanova, Khagurov, 2022).
Most of the current political, legal, and economic norms and principles do not reflect the necessary and urgent balance of ecological and social requirements. The inadequacy of such an unbalanced system of politico-economic and eco-social relations becomes evident during prolonged armed conflicts, logistical delays in supply chains during natural disasters, significant damage to ecosystems due to technological catastrophes, epidemic situations, and other emergencies. The new approach in economics requires not only environmentally friendly materials but also the implementation of more advanced production technologies and effective management methods for the successful implementation of technological solutions (Litvinenko, 2023). All of the above factors indicate the relevance of the urgent tasks for the modernization of domestic mineral resource sector enterprises based on ecological and socially oriented expediencies. At the same time, new economic opportunities and technical potential allow businesses and society to determine which natural resources will be used, consumed, produced, and reused.
Vladimir Putin's ideas on the urgent need to improve the theoretical and methodological foundations of strategic planning in the mineral resource sector in the context of market relations development and the development of organizational and managerial structures (Putin, 1997) have contributed to the creation of an effective management system for the regional and national mineral resource complex.
In the new economic conditions, due to the sanctions policy of Western countries, the urgent need becomes ensuring the country's resource sovereignty and moving away from import dependency on specific categories of minerals. At the plenary session of the Eastern Economic Forum in October 2022, the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, emphasized that modern Russia retains the ability to fully supply its economy with mineral resources: "We are focusing on the careful, prudent, and smart development of Russia's natural wealth based on the strictest environmental standards. The raw materials we extract will be used primarily for deep processing within the country. To strengthen the sovereignty of our country, ensure industrial safety, increase citizens' income, and develop regions." 1.
After the Eastern Economic Forum, which took place in October 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin instructed the Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology of the Russian Federation to develop an updated and expanded strategy for the high-tech development of the domestic mineral resource base until 2050. The goal of this initiative is to ensure the functioning and support of existing conglomerates and increase the role of mineral resources in the creation and development of new companies, with a focus on high-tech industry development. Current state regulation measures, such as the published draft of the updated "Strategy for the Development of the Mineral Resource Base for the Period until 2035 with an Extended Planning Horizon until 2050," prepared by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology of the Russian Federation (Minprirody of Russia)2, presented in March 2023, provide for the digitalization of the mineral resource industry, the purposeful introduction of new technologies for mineral extraction, and the creation of industry points for high-tech growth. This will accelerate the decision-making process in the domestic economy to ensure sustainable development, increase mineral resource production in line with basic needs aimed at ensuring stable moderate economic growth and target needs for meeting the growing demand for minerals to drive the development of the Russian economy and intensify raw material processing technological processes.
The innovative development model of the mineral resource complex is one of the most promising directions for the development of the domestic economy. To achieve this, special and priority attention must be given to industrial development and innovative processing and enrichment technologies that will allow for the rational use of mineral resources. The positive effect of their use can only be achieved through effective strategic planning aimed at achieving the set goals in the management of mineral resources.
These initiatives lead the domestic scientific community to realize the importance of implementing a comprehensive, integrative assessment of economic, environmental, and social aspects of mineral resource projects to achieve the goals of sustainable development in the field of mineral resource management. New methods for assessing the interconnection of waste from the canonical scheme of exploration, extraction, and processing of mineral resources, along with associated economic, social, and environmental transformations, are relevant to mineral resource projects.
Research Methodology:In the course of conducting this research, we employed general scientific methods based on analysis and synthesis, as well as methods of comparison, analogy, and expert assessments. Additionally, we utilized a systemic-functional analysis of the project research and management. Taken together, these research methods allowed for a comprehensive approach to evaluating mineral resource projects, which is a complex strategic task necessitating the application of new planning and forecasting methods. Within this approach, the advantages of clustering and tools for managing mineral resource projects are widely employed since each project is viewed as a complex of tasks that can be unified within one research entity.
Comprehensive Assessment of Mineral Resource Projects in the Realities of the Modern Russian Economy
The urgent need for the development of Russian mineral resource projects is primarily driven by the country's current and prospective demands in the global market. The rich and diverse mineral resource potential of the Russian Federation has attracted the interest of organized large and medium-sized businesses in the design and establishment of enterprises, as well as logistics complexes for the exploration, extraction, and subsequent processing of natural resources (Faiman, 2022). This situation aligns well with the conceptual foundations of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of Russia's proposal in March 2023, as part of the "Development Strategy for the Mineral Resource Base for the Period up to 2035 with an Extended Planning Horizon up to 2050," which envisions prospective economic specialization, including the creation of promising projects in the mineral resource complex as focal points of innovation-driven growth, encompassing many sectors of the mineral resource sector.
Projects related to the extraction and processing of mineral resources have their own production specifics. Enterprises in the mineral resource sector are characterized by a high degree of integration with other sectors of the economy, and these characteristics must be taken into account when assessing the effectiveness of industry-specific projects of this kind (Dabiev, 2021; Ponomarenko et al., 2020). Furthermore, the analysis of a mineral resource project should be based on the industry-specific nature of the economic entity.In this context, it is important to develop and adopt modern criteria for assessing the economic efficiency of enterprises, as well as the peculiarities of attracting investments and implementing innovations, considering the unfriendly sanction policies of Western countries.
The current state and prospects of development for corporations in the mineral resource complex clearly demonstrate that projects of this type are, in fact, among the most promising enterprises for active implementation and advancement of high-tech scientific and technical research, as well as innovative technologies for the extraction and processing of mineral resources. They are characterized by high technological capabilities in applying all innovative advancements in realizing "new models" of economic development.At the same time, companies in this sector of the economy often prove to be much more competitive than companies in other domestic industries. Recent research has provided evidence for the prospects of a new stage in the development of mineral resource projects based on innovative technologies (Zharov, 2018; Ponomarenko et al., 2020).
Key innovative integral indicators for evaluating Russian mineral resource projects include: labor productivity index, calculated as a percentage of the total number of workers engaged in production; capital investment volume index based on investment volume; adoption of advanced technologies and equipment;
intensity of innovation activity, evaluated based on indicators such as the share of patents and specific expenditures on research and development (R&D), and others. Renewable fixed production assets are also crucial factors to consider.
Additionally, in the context of export restrictions, enterprises in the mineral resource sector require a rapid approach to addressing import substitution issues. The main challenge is to combine traditional and widely accepted methods for assessing the efficiency of these enterprises with the economic component of the main trends: the adoption of import-substituting equipment for implementing critical and strategic projects.
The problem of import substitution for high-tech equipment is closely linked to sanction restrictions, which can hinder the development of enterprises and must be taken into account when assessing the potential of Russian mineral resource projects. These restrictions can be divided into four main multifactorial groups:
2. Cancellation of contracts for the purchase of spare parts, consumables, and components. Even if foreign companies remain in Russia and continue to operate, the delivery times for imported equipment, its warranty and post-warranty maintenance, can significantly increase, especially if these categories have been included in the sanction lists. In many cases, emergency equipment repairs become impossible due to the lack of stocked spare parts. Furthermore, the likelihood of purchasing subpar products has increased.
3. logistical problems, as well as supply disruptions, have arisen due to the closure of some Russian ports for exports in the aftermath of a special military operation in the country's mining industry. Problems are also emerging for companies that source raw materials from other countries.
4. Issues in generating revenue from exports and a shortage of financing are being faced as well. The volatility of the national currency is also impacting pricing, both for raw materials and equipment, leading to shorter planning horizons, reduced quality, and attractiveness of projects for investors. Companies are forced to seek new clients to obtain foreign currency revenue (Sokolov)et al, 2023).
The aforementioned constraints are key factors to consider when assessing the effectiveness of a mineral resource project. Therefore, it becomes evident that the use of traditional methods for evaluating the performance of enterprises based on quantitative indicators (assets, sales, production) may no longer be sufficiently effective. Modern methods for assessing enterprise performance should include both statistical indicators calculated based on quantitative data and comprehensive integrated indicators that reflect current business development trends under current conditions. Key indicators may include the share of profit obtained from product sales within the country, the share of invested capital, including government funding, and objective alternatives to existing supply chains. Incorporating these indicators into the evaluation system of mineral resource projects will enhance the efficiency of strategic planning and provide methodological tools for a comprehensive and qualitative assessment of projects.
The evaluation of mineral resource projects, especially those directed towards the country's transition to an innovative development path during a period of reduced investment activity, predetermines their greater economic justification, taking into account industry-specific characteristics (Lyubek, 2019). It is necessary to consider numerous factors influencing the investment attractiveness of mineral resource projects. During the pre-investment preparation stage, the project is in a state of high uncertainty regarding its key economic indicators, which is due to the complexity of determining mineral reserves for each specific deposit, given the complexity of geological conditions. Therefore, in the process of assessing the prospects for the development and implementation of mineral resource projects, it is essential to consider the specific characteristics of each deposit, as well as their operational lifespan, which depends on the volume of mineral resources and the profitability of production.
In general, the assessment of natural resource reserves is inherently an integral part of the comprehensive evaluation of mineral resource projects. Among other major issues that must be taken into account when evaluating mineral resource projects are territorial and infrastructural constraints, especially in the energy and transportation sectors, as well as a shortage of qualified labor. Currently, in many regions, there is a shortage of qualified personnel in the mineral resource sector who could work in the extraction and processing industries of the Russian economy. Furthermore, labor-related issues hinder the inflow of investments into regions and their implementation. Many problems in vocational education are linked to insufficient coordination between educational institutions and employers, as well as the absence of inter-industry collaboration. To address the personnel shortage issue in large mineral resource projects, it is necessary to create conditions for attracting new specialists from other regions and utilizing migrant labor.
Mineral resource projects are considered high-risk areas of entrepreneurial activity, which can be grouped into the following types of risks: legal, geological, economic, financial, production, and geopolitical risk factors. Currently, there are numerous different approaches that allow for the assessment of the economic aspects and consequences of implementing mineral resource projects. An area of particular research interest is the analysis of potential scenarios for the development of mineral resource projects. The advantage of the scenario analysis method for the development of a mineral resource project lies in the qualified calculation of efficiency coefficients, which can be determined by combining various indicators, such as efficiency and risk, into consolidated indicators. The analysis of project parameters and external factors provides an understanding of the current state of the project. Such analysis consists of several stages:
- - development of a scenario-based approach to changing project parameters taking into account possible risks and potential opportunities;
- - assigning a probability rating to each scenario;
- - calculating the risks and effectiveness of the project for each scenario (usually the pessimistic scenario, the most likely scenario, and the optimistic scenario) (Matrokhina et al., 2023).When using the scenario analysis method to assess the prospects of mineral resource projects, it is recommended to avoid situations where mineral resource projects evaluated as successful turn out to be less effective than projects evaluated as favorable. To prevent such a situation, it is important to operate with a pessimistic scenario to provide projects with some resilience. However, such an approach may lead to the abandonment of potentially efficient projects. Therefore, in this context, it is preferable to use moderately pessimistic scenarios when assessing risks that affect project planning.
Mineral resource projects are characterized by high investment risks associated with the need to create, operate, and maintain a sophisticated infrastructure system in proper condition. Therefore, when assessing them, it is necessary to consider the location of enterprises, where an effective approach to solving transportation and logistics tasks allows reducing unjustified costs for the creation and operation of engineering and social facilities.(Matrokhina et al., 2023). However, despite the significant investment risk, mineral resource enterprises remain highly profitable investment projects (Litvinenko, 2023; Litvinenko, 2020), which makes them attractive for investors and necessitates direct budget support for investment projects of this type.
Absolute investment volumes, reflecting investment activity, are indicators of the sustainability of the prospective development of mineral resource projects, and structural indicators of these investments are used to assess the level of economic growth (Lomakina, 2018). However, in modern conditions of financial resource deficit and limited foreign investment, determining the investment efficiency of projects is the most complex economic challenge.
Mineral resource enterprises require significant capital investment to develop and maintain production capacity at the appropriate level. The need for qualified technical personnel is one of the most pressing issues encountered in the implementation of mineral extraction and processing projects. This trend inherently increases the volume of investments in mineral resource projects and raises the risks associated with such investments. To assess the prospects of intensive development of mineral resource projects, one can only do so by considering the balance of opportunities for attracting investments and innovations through internal resources of the enterprise. This includes not only profits but also other amortization deductions, as well as external resources that can be used for investment in the corporation through equity capital, loans, and other financial instruments. Additionally, government support and tax incentives for the creation of production and social facilities can partially meet the capital investment needs.
Due to the fact that any mineral resource project requires investments, it should be considered an investment project, which allows the application of appropriate evaluation methodologies. for this type of projects based on the following criteria: commercial efficiency of the project, measured by how much money will be spent on its implementation; economic efficiency, which includes not only the economic effect but also the economic benefit; technical efficiency, which encompasses the technical and technological solutions necessary for project implementation; budget efficiency, i.e., the economic effect achieved through tax and non-tax revenues to budgets at various levels.
All validation questions regarding commonly accepted methods for assessing large and medium-sized strategic mineral and raw material projects that have a significant impact on the country's economy, as well as on regional and interregional socio-economic development, are regulated by the "Methodological Recommendations for Evaluating the Effectiveness of Investment Projects" (second edition, corrected and supplemented, approved by the Ministry of Economic Development of the Russian Federation, the Ministry of Finance of the Russian Federation, and the State Construction Committee of the Russian Federation on June 21, 1999. N VK 477). These "Methodological Recommendations" represent an adapted transfer of globally recognized practices widely used by the World Bank and UNIDO to the Russian realities of the second half of the 1990s. In this document, the commercial and budgetary effects of implementing investment projects are comprehensively examined. However, when evaluating the effectiveness of investment projects, it is necessary to take into account the entire spectrum of anticipated and projected economic consequences that may arise during the implementation of mineral resource projects in the new conditions of modern Russian economic reality.
A comprehensive assessment of the consequences of introducing a mineral resource project includes studying the scale of its impact at the local, regional, national, or international levels, as well as the current state of the social sphere in the considered territory and the projected development of all presumed positive and negative impacts. To obtain integrated indicators for evaluating the economic efficiency of implementing mineral resource projects, the same approach as in the analysis of the commercial efficiency of enterprises in other sectors of the economy can be applied, but with significant modifications. Thus, the essence of evaluating the economic efficiency of a mineral resource project lies in the fact that it generates new cash flows, taking into account all changes. Consequently, all positive economic effects can be associated with the benefits and advantages of implementing the project, while the negative ones are associated with costs.
Modeling, as one of the cognitive methods of modeling, allows representing various factors influencing the economic system, forecasting the dynamics and prospects of socio-economic development of a region or within the framework of interregional interaction based on qualitative and quantitative indicators of implementing large mineral resource projects that affect the dynamics of the studied object (whether it's a region or a conceptual interregional association formed for research purposes). Cognitive modeling is also intended for the analysis of complex projects for the development of mineral resources that are not tied to the administrative division of the territory.
Cognitive modeling is based on organizing and verifying knowledge about complex systems, as well as analyzing complex problems and development trends of the system (including the use of big data analysis capabilities). This approach allows modeling the process of a system transitioning from one state to another and analyzing loosely structured systems, as well as incomplete statistical data, the collection of which is used for the correct construction of a model for assessing the social effectiveness of project impacts. Additionally, the cognitive methodology takes into account both quantitative and qualitative characteristics of the studied object, allowing for the comprehension, analysis, and evaluation of events occurring in the system (Feynman, 2022).
One of the advantages of cognitive modeling is the ability to create the most detailed models of complex systems so that even with hard-to-determine factors, the constructed models can lead to compelling conclusions and, moreover, assess the potential stability of the system. If the system is unstable, the model can identify unstable connections and attempt to eliminate them. However, it's important to pay attention to the ambiguity of concepts, incorrect cause-and-effect chains of impact pathways, and imprecision in terminology, as well as the associated methods of assessing mineral resource projects (Andre & Ljunggren, 2021), where approaches to modeling and practical implementation sometimes do not correspond to what researchers aim to evaluate. This is why the use of various cognitive models results in contradictory assessments but can be used as an additional method for experimentally calculating the economic efficiency of a mineral resource project.
A cognitive model is developed to identify the key factors characterizing the impact of a mineral resource project on the development of the socio-economic system of a society, region, or country. Cognitive modeling allows for the identification of relationships and interactions between various factors (both positive and negative) that characterize the impact of mineral resource projects on the economic development of a region or country, including the volume of Gross Regional Product (GRP) or Gross National Product (GNP). Based on the obtained results, an assessment of interacting factors is conducted, and a cognitive model of the socio-economic effectiveness of the project is developed as both a primary and auxiliary tool. This can be seen as a socio-economic effect, which manifests itself in the reduction or increase in environmental pollution levels, the creation of new jobs, including the employment of the population engaged in the extraction and processing of minerals, and the growth of small businesses, including support for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Investments in accumulated human capital (in the form of population health, work ethics, expenditures on the formation of quality education and high professionalism, expressed in millions of rubles), mobility and sociocultural adaptability of the population, housing construction (in terms of total construction cost, million rubles), regional budget income, and so on. Other effects that may result from the implementation of a mineral resource project cannot be ignored - these are not only economic but also political and sociocultural consequences.
Research Results and Discussion
In 2008, the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs recommended using basic evaluation indicators for domestic enterprises, reflecting the main results of companies' economic activities (Prokopov, 2008). Based on these indicators, an algorithm for evaluating investment projects in the mineral and raw materials complex is proposed. The integrated process of project evaluation for mineral resource extraction includes: economic factors affecting market conditions, characterizing the state and prospects of production;
technological factors related to the extraction, enrichment, and processing of minerals;
- economic and technological factors affecting the economic development of the country or region.
To calculate the economic efficiency of implementing mineral resource projects in the subsequent cognitive model, factors characterizing the socio-economic system were identified, and general assessment frameworks for the most significant consequences were provided. The results of cognitive analysis are preliminary in nature and represent a compromise between the model's reality and the reality it seeks to describe. Therefore, there is no need for a detailed description of the model for a more precise analysis of the reality it attempts to describe.
The proposed evaluation system for mineral resource projects is based on a unified approach and principles applicable to all investment projects in the industry, including large infrastructure projects of medium and large businesses, for which the analysis may be conducted selectively. In this cognitive model, the focus is on qualitative rather than quantitative indicators, taking into account regional parameters. This cognitive model allows assessing the effects that can be obtained as a result of implementing a resource and mineral project. Thus, the proposed approach can be used to justify the rational use and evaluate the consequences of implementing mineral resource projects.
Table 1. Typology of Factors and Evaluation Indicators of the Cognitive Model in the Implementation of Mineral Resource Projects
Type and Name of Influencing Factor
Indicators of Consequences' Performance on the Main Economic Sectors
Cash inflows into federal and regional budgets through the implementation of new projects for the development of natural resources; creation of regional infrastructure; labor productivity growth; economic development indicators growth, including the share in GDP and GNP, etc.; development of transportation infrastructure reducing economic distances; improving the business climate; attracting additional investments through a multiplier effect, including investments in the development of small and medium-sized businesses;
Geological exploration of the territory, including geological and economic assessment of subsoil use objects, including calculations of various indicators; determination of geological and rental features of the deposit; scale and duration of the investment project (total investments, investment attractiveness, investments in fixed capital, investments in construction, maintenance of capacities, geological exploration, non-production sector); construction of mining and processing industry facilities; further development of extractive economic sectors of the territory; labor productivity and quality of labor resources (staff numbers in the primary and auxiliary production, in construction, geological exploration, as well as non-production sector); production safety, occupational health; personnel training; investments in human capital (headcount, education, health, labor motivation, mobility, and sociocultural adaptability of personnel);
social investments; expenses for implementation of personnel social programs; improving the quality of life of the local population, reducing migration from settlements; creating additional jobs in the development regions of mineral deposits; development of industrial and social employment; reducing social tension in the region; increasing population mobility; spreading sociocultural innovations, and more.
increasing the share of Russia's natural resources on the world markets, maintaining the status of a reliable supplier of raw materials, strengthening positions in world markets, including through the export of unique technological solutions for the development of natural resources; development of interregional and international relations.
scientific and innovative development of the industry; raising the technical and technological levels of companies, creating fundamentally new technologies and technical means, intensifying research activities of Russian companies in Moscow, raising the scientific and educational level of specialists;
environmental impact, including atmospheric emissions, including greenhouse gas emissions; water consumption and discharge into water sources; energy efficiency and energy consumption; processing of production waste and secondary raw materials; exploration, development, operation, and reclamation of the deposit;
Source: compiled by the author based on Zhavorov, 2018; Faiman, 2022; Kharlamov et al., 2019; Prokopov, 2008; Lyubek, 2019;
Conclusions and Summary
The comprehensive analysis of existing approaches to assessing the economic efficiency of Russian mineral resource projects leads to the following conclusions:
In the research of comprehensive methods for assessing mineral resource projects, new information about the current fundamental problems of this sector of the domestic economy must be taken into account, and in the changed conditions of calculating investors' income due to unfriendly sanction policies and logistical supply restrictions.
Comprehensive evaluation of mineral resource projects is an important tool that allows coordinating the actions of all participants. This project-oriented approach will achieve a number of positive results because it includes the calculation of various indicators: economic (commodity production, costs, profit); investment (total investment volume, construction investments, equipment maintenance costs, geological exploration, non-production areas); technological (extraction, processing, and transportation of mineral resources, as well as the development of technological chains "resource-final product"); labor resources (staff numbers in primary and auxiliary production, construction, geological exploration, non-production sector); budgetary and commercial efficiency.
Features of domestic mineral resource projects, such as long payback periods for investments and the need for large financial investments, as well as a high level of investment risks and returns, necessitate the development of their own evaluation system, taking into account national, regional, and global, including geopolitical, realities. In addition, when conducting a comprehensive assessment of mineral resource projects, it is impossible to ignore such significant limiting factors of regional demographic, migration, and social policies as depopulation and internal migration of the population to megacities, which are characteristic of the vast majority of resource-rich regions.
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