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For axisymmetric evolution of isolated systems, we prove that there exists a gauge such that the total mass can be written as a positive definite integral on the spacelike hypersurfaces of the foliation and the integral is constant along the evolution. The conserved mass integral controls the square of the extrinsic curvature and the square of first derivatives of the intrinsic metric. We also discuss applications of this result for the global existence problem in axial symmetry.doi:10.1088/0264-9381/26/12/129801 fatcat:7tapi4muqzgmbomxw4bwxroixa