Jul 12, 2006 (CIDRAP News) – Genetic studies show that the H5N1 avian influenza virus mutated multiple times as it spread through an Indonesia family in May, but the significance of the changes is uncertain, according to a news report today in Nature.The journal, basing its report on confidential genetic sequence data, published a chart showing that a total of 32 mutations were identified in viruses collected from six patients in the family case cluster. Previous reports from the World Health Organization and other experts gave the impression that only a few mutations had been found.The case cluster in North Sumatra involved a 37-year-old woman who apparently contracted the virus from poultry and then passed it to six relatives before she died. One of those six, a 10-year-old boy, then passed the virus to his father. WHO officials said last month that a specific mutation found in the boy and his father marked the first laboratory confirmation of human-to-human transmission of the virus.On May 23, the WHO said genetic sequencing of two viruses from the case cluster had shown “no evidence of genetic reassortment with human or pig influenza viruses and no evidence of significant mutations.” A month later, at the end of an avian flu conference in Jakarta, WHO officials told reporters the virus had mutated slightly when it infected the 10-year-old boy, and the same mutation showed up in his father. The mutation didn’t make the virus more transmissible or virulent, officials said.The genetic data obtained by Nature came from a presentation by University of Hong Kong virologist Malik Peiris at a closed session of the Jakarta meeting in June, the article says.The magazine says that 21 mutations were identified in a virus from the father of the 10-year-old boy, involving seven of the virus’s eight genes, suggesting that the virus was evolving rapidly as it spread. In addition, from one to four mutations were found in viruses collected from five other patients.The story says one of the mutations confers resistance to the antiviral drug amantadine, a finding not reported by the WHO.However, the virus did not spread beyond the extended family, as the article notes. “Many of the genetic changes did not result in the use of different amino acids by the virus,” the story says. “And there were no amino-acid changes in key receptor binding sites known to affect pathogenicity and transmissibility.”According to the magazine, viruses from six of the eight cases in the cluster have been sequenced, but the WHO has not shared the findings, saying they belong to Indonesia. The data have been released only to a few researchers linked to the WHO and the US Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention, the story says.Virologists quoted by the journal asserted that the withholding of sequence data on H5N1 is hindering scientists’ understanding of the virus. But WHO staff member Paul Gully replied, according to the article, that the agency’s job is investigating outbreaks, not doing academic research, and that labs don’t have the time or resources to do “high-quality sequencing” during outbreaks.See also:May 23 WHO statement on genetic data from the case clusterhttp://www.who.int/csr/don/2006_05_23/en/index.htmlJun 23 CIDRAP News story “H5N1 mutation showed human transmission in Indonesia”
The sweeping omnibus bill will introduce several fiscal incentives to boost the development of downstream mining industries including mineral smelters, coal-fired power plants and coal gasification facilities. It will allow miners that invest downstream to operate their respective concessions until reserves run dry (Article 47). Otherwise, operational periods will be capped at 40 years maximum.The bill also exempts coal miners that invest downstream from paying royalties and from complying with Indonesia’s domestic market obligation (Article 28A) policy. Prevailing regulations require such miners to pay up to 7 percent of their net profit as royalty and sell 25 percent of their product domestically at US$70 per ton. Most of the price-capped coal goes to Indonesia’s largest power producer, state-owned electricity company PLN.United Overseas Bank (UOB) economist Enrico Tanuwidjaya wrote in a note last year that the government’s downstream plan “will be substantial in the long-term” but only with “consistent legal and policy certainties” and “sustained and immediate development of the processing and downstream industries.”Read also: Ban on unrefined nickel exports positive in long run: EconomistEnvironmental watchdog Mining Advocacy Network’s (Jatam) Merah Johansyah slammed the incentives, arguing that they would prolong environmental destruction.Contrary to Jatam’s argument, Indonesian Nickel Mining Association (APNI) secretary-general Meidy Katrin told the Post on Jan. 30 that “not many miners” had the financial muscle to exploit concessions beyond 40 years.Legal certainty for mining giantsThe government will provide some long-awaited certainty for coal miners and mineral miners, whose contracts are based on the now-defunct 1967 Mining Law. Article 169A of the bill allows such miners to resume operating their respective concessions as special mining permit (IUPK) holders instead of contract of work holders, whereby “IUPKs have to pay higher royalty fees”, Indonesian Mining Institute (IMI) chairman Irwandy Arif told the Post on Feb. 17.Indonesian Coal Mining Association (APBI) executive director Hendra Sinadia previously described the legal certainty issue as “very urgent” because seven coal mining giants’ contracts are slated to expire between 2020 and 2025, the earliest of which expires in November this year. The soon-to-expire contract belongs to Jakarta-based PT Arutmin Indonesia, a subsidiary of the country’s largest coal miner by output, PT Bumi Resources.Nickel mining activities at Sorowako PT Vale Indonesia Tbk. After being transported to trucks, nickel material in the form of land is placed in a temporary shelter, then put into a factory to be processed until it gets a matte nickel of 78 percent, and is exported to Japan. (JP/Ruslan Sangadji)Centralizing mining permitsThe omnibus bill aims to streamline the issuance of mining permits by centralizing the process with the government. At the moment, regional leaders have the power to issue mining permits and create regional mining regulations, many of which contradict national-level regulations.The government will scrap Mining Law articles 48 and 67 if the omnibus bill passes into law. Article 48 allows regional leaders to issue mining permits while Article 67 authorizes regents and mayors to issue cooperative mining permits.Watchdog leaders Robert Endi Jaweng and Maryati Abdullah, who respectively head think tanks Regional Autonomy Watch (KPPOD) and Publish What You Pay (PWYP) Indonesia, described the changes as a “recentralization” scheme that harks back to the country’s authoritarian New Order era.“From an autonomy standpoint, it’s drying up the spirit of regional autonomy. It’s going in the opposite direction,” Robert said, referring to the 2004 Regional Autonomy Law, which guarantees certain powers for regional administrations.Read also: Omnibus bill allows President to scrap bylaws, weakens regional administrations “The issue is not just opening the investment tap,” said Maryati. “Will local residents have a complaint-handling mechanism?”Law lecturer Ahmad Redi, who leads the drafting of the bill’s energy-related provisions, countered the argument, saying that, in the long run, downstream industry development “will increase the products’ values, which will add to state and regional incomes”.Expanding mining territory further offshoreThe omnibus bill will allow mining activities anywhere within Indonesian seas (Article 47A) whereas the existing Mining Law limits offshore activity to 12 kilometers beyond the coast (Article 6).The relaxation was needed to extract offshore tin reserves as “we are almost out of tin reserves onshore, so like it or not, we have to enter the sea,” IMI’s Irwandy told the Post.Indonesia is the world’s second-largest tin producer after China. A quarter of the global supply of tin, used for a range of products, from electronics to eyeglasses, comes from Indonesia, according to the US Geological Survey. Read also: Growth first, environment later. Proposed legal revision relaxes mining restrictions “What’s being discussed in the job creation bill is investment certainty, including how to boost downstream industry development,” Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry coal and mineral director general Bambang Gatot Ariyono told reporters in Jakarta last week.Indonesia wants to earn more money from its mineral wealth by having miners develop downstream industries, such as mineral smelters and coal-fired power plants. The government will enforce bans on exports of all metal ore by 2022 and coal by 2046 while at the same time promoting development by relaxing regulations and offering incentives.Downstream industry development Topics : An upcoming landmark bill on job creation is expected to streamline business and boost investment for miners in Indonesia, albeit at the expense of environmental protection and regional autonomy.The bill, a draft of which was obtained by The Jakarta Post, will introduce four major changes to the 2009 Coal and Mineral Mining Law. These changes aim to centralize the issuance of mining permits, provide legal certainty for mining giants, boost downstream industry development and expand the nation’s mining territory into the open seas.The changes are very similar to those being separately worked on by the House of Representatives.