A Solid Commodities Bet

I refuse to become overly concerned about the precipitous drop in commodities prices that has hit the likes of copper, natural gas, crude oil, and others. Indeed, should the trend continue, I'll simply intensify my focus on Australia's BHP Billiton (NYSE: BHP  ) , the world's largest mining company and an increasing factor in oil and gas.

Indeed, it's the petroleum presence that to my mind raises BHP above U.K.-headquartered Rio Tinto (NYSE: RIO  ) and Brazil's Vale (NYSE: VALE  ) , the other two companies in the trio that dominates the world's supply of iron ore, a key ingredient in steel manufacturing. The lion's share of the ore produced by the threesome ends up in manufacturing facilities in China, a phenomenon that is unlikely to change as the country's demand for steel continues to expand.

In addition, BHP's mining operations produce base metals, including copper, silver, and zinc, along with primary aluminum, manganese, and metallurgical coal.

But since my interest in the company continues to be heightened by its oil and gas operations, I think it's noteworthy that BHP received the second U.S. deepwater drilling permit in the Gulf of Mexico after the removal of the moratorium that followed the blowout, explosion, and oil spill aboard the Deepwater Horizon rig.

The permit has allowed BHP to resume the drilling of a production well it had begun at its Shenzi oil field prior to the tragedy. A major change, however, has been the addition of equipment produced by Houston-based Helix Energy Solutions (NYSE: HLX  ) to help mitigate the effects of another blowout, should one occur.

Not all of BHP's oil and gas activity is occurring offshore. Earlier this year the company agreed to spend $4.75 billion to acquire Chesapeake Energy's (NYSE: CHK  ) Fayetteville shale assets in Arkansas. Those assets include 487,000 acres in the play, along with 420 miles of pipeline. The deal is permitting BHP to gain a toehold in the active world of U.S. unconventional gas production.

But the Fayetteville acreage likely isn't the last shot out of the acquisition gun for BHP. CEO Marius Kloppers likes to shop. Indeed, you probably recall the company's prior unsuccessful efforts to buy Rio Tinto and Canada's PotashCorp (NYSE: POT  ) . If so, you may have bumped into the ongoing rumor that the big mining company has its sights set on Anadarko Petroleum (NYSE: APC  ) . However, that particular deal could be scotched by Anadarko's 25% position in the blown out Macondo well, which could ultimately result in substantial liabilities for the Houston-area company.

In any event, there's always something occurring at BHP. As such -- and given its boatload of commodities -- I suggest that Fools join me in monitoring the company by adding its name to your own free version of My Watchlist.

The recent commodities sell-off reminded Fool analyst Dan Dzombak of the rule he follows for commodities investing. Had you followed this one rule, you would have saved loads of money in 2008 and 2009 and made tons recently. Click here to read more.

Fool contributor David Lee Smith doesn't own shares in any of the above-named companies. Alpha Newsletter Account, LLC owns shares of Chesapeake Energy. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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