There's something pleasurable about describing mining giant Rio Tinto's (NYSE:RTP) earnings to you. Oh yes, the earnings were tremendous -- as you might have predicted -- but also terrific was the length of time being considered: six months, rather than a quarter. I've long wished that we in the U.S. would follow suit with the same semiannual reporting.

But we won't, and so we should turn to the quality of the company's earnings. For instance, it doesn't get much better than a 113% jump in net earnings, which is precisely what London-based Rio Tinto accomplished. Its $6.91 billion in earnings towered over the $3.25 billion for the first six months of 2007.

The earnings increase can be tied to a couple of factors: On the one hand, prices (and the underlying demand) for most of the commodities produced by the company -- and they range from alumina to zinc -- increased considerably. Indeed, in its earnings release, the company predicted higher prices for iron ore, alumina, and copper, its major minerals. The company joins Brazil's Vale (NYSE:RIO) and Australia's BHP Billiton (NYSE:BHP) as the world's three largest producers of iron ore, a steelmaking ingredient for which Chinese-based demand has grown substantially.

Beyond that, the company benefited from its acquisition last summer of Canada's aluminum producer Alcan, which, for a paltry $38 billion, it swept from the clutches of Pittsburgh-based Alcoa (NYSE:AA). The purchase secured for Rio Tinto a position as the world's second-largest aluminum producer.

Rio Tinto is also being pursued by BHP in a hostile and protracted takeover effort. And in a somewhat related quest, Aluminum Corp. of China (NYSE:ACH) -- typically referred to as Chinalco -- has received permission to increase from 9% to 11% a stake that it took in Rio Tinto earlier this year.

While it'll be six more months before we're treated to another round of earnings from Rio Tinto, I'm betting that the BHP-Rio Tinto skirmish won't have played itself out by that time.

Rio Tinto has been accorded four stars by Motley Fool CAPS players. What's your assessment?

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Fool contributor David Lee Smith doesn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned. He does welcome your questions, comment, concerns, or kibitzing. The Fool has a steel-strong disclosure policy.