In an all-too-familiar story these days, a look back at Freeport-McMoRan's (NYSE:FCX) share price history over the past 18 months could send chills up your spine. If you'd bought the stock in March 2007, or when it acquired its larger rival Phelps Dodge, you'd have paid about $60 a share. Then, if you'd placed a sell order last May, you'd have been good for nearly a double in a little more than a year.

Now, however, with copper prices having plunged over 60% since the summer, anyone who bought Freeport at the top has lost more than 80% of their investment. So what does the future portend for this biggest of all publicly held copper, molybdenum, and gold companies?

Unfortunately, Freeport, like most mining and metals companies, is in a frazzle these days. It's just announced that given the horrible market conditions, it'll lay off more than 600 mine workers in the U.S. And in addition to delaying the expansion of a couple of its big Arizona copper mines -- along with the restarting of a third mine in the state -- it'll also cut back on its Colorado molybdenum operations.

On the good-news side of the ledger, Freeport's just inked a new contract with workers at its big Cerro Verde copper mine in Peru. The workers had been threatening a strike at the mine, which last year produced nearly 275,000 tons of copper.

Of course, Freeport and copper are anything but Lone Rangers in their difficulties. Aluminum prices have also become shadows of their former selves, closing earlier this week at 86.35 cents per pound, the lowest level ever recorded in November. As a result, Alcoa (NYSE:AA) has seen its share price drop more than 80% from its 52-week high, while smaller Century Aluminum's (NASDAQ:CENX) shares are down more 50% just since last week.

And surely you know about the big miners, BHP Billiton (NYSE:BHP), Rio Tinto (NYSE:RTP), and Vale (NYSE:RIO), all of whose shares have plunged like rocks since their spring and summer highs. But let's return to the primary question: Is Freeport close to a bottom, and has it therefore become a sensible place for your investment pesos?

My best response is that Freeport is an incredibly solid company, with sound management and long-lived, geographically diverse assets. It's also a company that, in the current market environment, I wouldn't touch with a 10- or even 20-foot pole.

Freeport is a five-star company among Motley Fool CAPS players. Does that include your thumbs-up?

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Fool contributor David Lee Smith doesn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned. He does welcome your questions or comments. The Fool has mined a bright and shining disclosure policy.