The Lyon County Planning Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to renew a special use permit for another year for Eden Research's soil amendment research and processing plant in Dayton.
Eden's owners are still awaiting approval from the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection before they can begin operation.
Eden claims to have a proprietary process to chemically break down soil and release hundreds of trace minerals that can then be made into a product hat purports to increase plant production and nutrition.
Lyon planning commissioner Virgil Arellano said Tuesday he was concerned that the permit initially specified the chemicals and amounts to be used in the process, but it appeared the focus had changed.
"Now you're asking for a mining permit to process gold and silver? One chemical gives me pause, and that's sodium cyanide," Arellano said.
Mary Mains, Eden's chief executive officer, said the company will use the same chemicals listed in the initial application and that "we are going to use less" of them.
"We're not using one ounce more than was originally listed," she said. "Our process remineralizes worn-out soil. A lot of our land is dead and lots of farmers are begging to be part of our test plots. Unfortunately, the last permit (applied for through NDEP) said gold and silver."
Commissioner Ray Johnson, also a farmer, said he has his soil analyzed every year.
"The trace minerals are there, but they're not being released. Gypsum is the only thing that works right now," he said.
Mains said they won't be mining from gold and silver mines, but that Nevada's soil has thousands of trace minerals including some precious metals. If any gold or silver is left at the end of the soil benefication process, it will be used "to pay the bills" for the company's primary focus.
Material is expected to be trucked from the Boca quarry in California just west of Reno and from Fredericksburg, Calif., south of Minden.
But several Dayton residents, who fear the plant will emit odors, impact roads and pose other more serious dangers, were not so sure.
Mabel Masterman, a former member of the Dayton Regional Advisory Council (DRAC) was worried about the plant's location.
"I don't have a problem with what they're doing ... but is this location in the best interest of the community? I'm also concerned about truck traffic and road infrastructure. Who's going to pay for that?"
Sandy Duncan of the Airpark Estates Homeowner's Association had several questions, including whether there would be a reporting or complaint process.
"It sounds like a wonderful product, but we heard at a DRAC meeting that there would be some odors, so what kind? We live very close to this plant. If there is noise ... or something else, will there be a process for complaints or do we have to wait for the next special use permit renewal," Duncan said.
And Doc Dolan, of Silver Springs, said he would prefer that commissioners wait until after NDEP's public hearing tonight. The meeting with NDEP is scheduled for 6 p.m. at Dayton High School.
Commission Chairman Ray Fierro said he had mixed feelings about the issue.
"I'm excited you people are doing this for the nutrition of our food, but I also have to be concerned for my community and the things that they are concerned about," he said.
Jim Wysocki, who works for Eden and specializes in environmental safety, said the mining permit was the only thing available for the process the plant will use and that the facility is completely sealed.
"We argued with them until we were blue in the face, but that's how NDEP has classified things," he said.
"There will be zero discharge from that plant. All our liquids are recyclable. All sewer has been disconnected except for toilets and hand sinks. Nothing leaves that building. And we had to epoxy one floor with five coats," Wysocki said.
He also described an elaborate alarm system and safety protocol.
"The only thing that has changed (since obtaining the initial special use permit in September 2007) is the wording," he said.
Commissioner Ervin Hill said he saw no cause for revoking the special use permit.
"The state said to use a mining permit but you're not going to be mining. The state has put those words in there and that's where the confusion comes in," Hill said.
"I have 20 years experience with NDEP and unless you're prepared to fight it, you do what they say," Johnson said.