PolyMet, the Canadian mining company looking to build Minnesota's first copper-nickel mine, has a new project director, the company announced Monday morning.

Richard Lock, who most recently worked as the construction director for the KAZ Minerals Peschanka open pit copper mine in Russia, will serve as PolyMet's project director and senior vice president.

PolyMet also said Dennis Bartlett retired from the board Dec. 31 for "personal reasons" and his retirement was unrelated to Lock's appointment. Bartlett joined the board in 2017.

Lock has also worked for mining projects in Arizona, Utah, Canada and Ethiopia.

PolyMet is planning an open pit copper-nickel mine, processing facility and tailings dam near Babbitt and Hoyt Lakes.

Supporters say the project would bring much-needed jobs to the region while opponents say it would send toxic runoff into the St. Louis River Watershed and Lake Superior.

While the project became the first fully permitted copper-nickel mine in the state in 2018, several of its permits were placed on hold amid numerous legal challenges.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals is expected to issue a decision by Jan. 21 on the suspended dam safety permits and permit to mine, the same day a hearing will begin on the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's request to the Environmental Protection Agency to refrain from commenting on a PolyMet draft water permit until the public comment period ended.

This article has been updated to clarify the departure from the company's board of directors and the location of the proposed mine.