EP: Microns of minerals making a difference in Lyon County

January 20, 2016

EP: Microns of minerals making a difference in Lyon County

By Jessica Garcia, RGJ, December 11, 2015

They make your Coors beer sparkling. They act as an absorption agent, quickly and safely soaking up oil or grease spills on streets or land after accidents. They improve filter efficiency and keep your swimming pool or spa looking pristine. They might even make your aspiring baseball-playing kids faster and the game action more exciting by ridding those fields of excess moisture.

Thank nature for the existence of diatoms for all the above, and EP Minerals, Nevada's largest exporter of the mineral formed by it that goes into making all this and more happen.

At a presentation to the Fernley City Council on Dec. 2, EP Minerals vice president of marketing Al Kaczanowski, said the company, headquartered in Reno, is pleased to operate a plant in Fernley. It also has other plants in Lovelock and Clark, Nev., as well as Vale, Ore., Middleton, Tenn., and Blair, Neb.

The company began with the work of two brothers in the mid-1800s who started out manufacturing paints under Eagle White Lead, eventually becoming Eagle-Picher Lead in 1916 after merging with a lead mining company owned by Oliver Picher. With the onset of World War II, Eagle-Picher produced storage batteries in a military application with diatomaceous earth and zinc.

The diatomaceous earth, or DE as the company commonly calls it, is its primary mineral, a dried remnant of single-celled organisms no more than 10 to 25 microns in size and managed to overpopulate the earth. DE is found in abundance in Nevada and is particularly useful for breweries, paint manufacturers or in vegetable oil. About 85 percent of the company's sales is derived from DE.

EP also mines perlite, originated from hydrated volcanic glass, used for lightweight construction and horticulture, and granular clay, derived from calcium bentonite for the company's absorbents.

The introduction to the company and what it does is significant to the city, Kaczanowski said, because it helps contribute to Lyon County's local economy. The company currently employs 33 from Fernley

After his presentation, Councilwoman Shari Whalen asked what the company needs to thrive.

“How do we develop this partnership?" she said. “I think we get criticism because we're trying to recruit new companies to the city that we forget to help people who are here."

Kaczanowski said the city can help in taking part in finding solutions where sage grouse is an issue on certain open lands, plus permitting for new mines is always a lengthy barrier to overcome.

“We have a new mine we want to open up," he said. “There's some really neat properties in this mine, but the process will take at least two years to get it open. We can't even begin to solve problems until it gets permitted. That's part of what causes these delays."

But he expressed optimism that business would continue to thrive and that its plants continue to receive recognition from the Nevada Mining Association.

“Our jobs are really pretty good jobs," he said. “Our business is steady. ... A big part of our culture is safety, and we make sure all employees make it home to their families every day."