Is China Playing Mine Games?

This one will be fun for Fools to watch and will also bring significant implications for Foolish portfolios: After tying into a stake in metals and mining giant Rio Tinto (NYSE: RTP  ) , Chinese interests might be focusing on mining's big enchilada, BHP Billiton (NYSE: BHP  ) .

Let's first review the bidding here. Earlier this year, Aluminum Corp. of China (NYSE: ACH  ) teamed up with U.S.-based Alcoa (NYSE: AA  ) for a $14 billion piece of London-based Rio. The move followed a pair of offers for Rio Tinto by BHP Billiton. Both companies produce a range of resources from alumina to zinc.

Along with Brazil's Vale (NYSE: RIO  ) , they form a trio that controls more than half of the world's stores of iron ore, a key ingredient in steel production. With China's production of steel growing by leaps and bounds, the nation's appetite for iron ore has become more voracious. It has also caused the Chinese powers that be to have a direct interest in thwarting a Rio Tinto-BHP Billiton combination.

And there's clearly a belief within the rapidly developing and most populous country that you can never have too much insurance. So it now appears that "Chinese interests" would like to team up with an Australian investment fund for a $9 billion stake in BHP Billiton.

It hasn't been determined which Chinese entity would lead the purchase. It has been speculated that Chinese interests would take half the stake, with the remainder being split between the Australian fund and a private equity interest. The last two entities would mimic Alcoa's role in the Rio Tinto purchase: limiting consternation about China moving excessively into Western resources markets.

Isn't this fun? A couple of decades ago, the words "investment" and "China" or "Russia" were never combined in the same sentence. But now we have Russian interests becoming serious players in American steel production, and China worming its way into the world's biggest mining companies.

And for Fools, this clearly should be a lesson: If metals and mining commodities have become meaningful to Chinese interests, and especially amid commodities price run-ups, they're probably excellent places for Occidental money. That's how I'm looking at BHP Billiton these days.

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