What happened

Shares of mining company Lithium Americas (LAC) dropped 12.84% on Friday. The stock closed at $27.15 on Thursday before opening at $26 on Friday. It fell to a nine-week low of $23.50 in the late afternoon before closing at $23.67. The stock is down more than 12% so far this year and has a 52-week low of $18.89 and a 52-week high of $41.56.

So what

The stock slid when a federal judge pushed back a hearing until Jan. 5 regarding a lawsuit opposing the company's Thacker Pass lithium mine in Humboldt County in Nevada. Opponents of the mine are trying to get the court to overturn the mine's approval, set by then-President Donald Trump in January 2021. The company had initially said in February it expected a ruling on the case by this fall, so the delayed hearing is a setback for the company's operations. Lithium Americas is in the pre-production stage for its Thacker Pass mine and its Cauchari-Olaroz mine in Argentina, so delays mean no mined lithium and no revenue for the time being.

The drop may be a bit of overreaction as Chief Judge Miranda Du had already granted an injunction against halting the mine's operations, showing she may ultimately decide in the company's favor. The production of lithium has become a greater priority with the additional push from President Joe Biden's administration toward electric vehicles, which require lithium for their batteries. Its important to note there's a push for more lithium production from facilities other than those operated by China, so that works in Vancouver, Canada-based Lithium Americas' favor.

The other reason the plunge may be an overreaction is the mine in Argentina is 90% complete, meaning the company may be selling lithium from the mine as early as next year; also, prices for lithium carbonate have tripled since 2021.

Now what

In the short term, the uncertainty around Thacker Pass will likely weigh on the materials stock. However, as the company has $441 million in cash and may soon be drawing revenue from its mine in Argentina, the long-term picture still looks good for the stock. The pressing need for lithium in the United States also means there's likely to be plenty of pressure to rule in the company's favor, even if the ruling has been pushed back.