Freeport-McMoRan Copper and Gold (NYSE:FCX) is back. Effective with the report of its third-quarter results on Wednesday, there's very little doubt that the company has returned to its impressive form of a couple of years ago.

The company chalked up third-quarter net income of $925 million, or $2.07 per share, compared to earnings of $523 million, or $1.31 per share, for the comparable quarter of 2008. Revenues were $4.14 billion, versus $4.62 billion a year earlier. The Wall Street operatives who follow the company had anticipated a per-share number of $1.34.

The company benefited from a combination of 40% cost reductions and steadily increasing copper and gold prices over the prior quarter. Copper in particular has climbed to $3.00 a pound, after sliding below $1.50 earlier in the year. Freeport's average realized price for the red metal during the quarter was $2.75, as developing nations again became buyers. However, it is still below last year's price of $3.14 a pound.

At the same time, gold sales climbed to 706,000 ounces from 307,000 ounces in the third quarter of 2008. Its average price was $987 per ounce versus last year's $869. But the world's largest molybdenum producer saw an average price of $13.95 per pound, significantly below the year earlier $32.11.

Also as a result of the strengthened copper picture, the company has decided to proceed with three copper mining projects, one each in Arizona, Peru, and Chile. And Freeport also is reinstating its $0.60 annual stock dividend.

But like bigger miners -- BHP Billiton (NYSE:BHP), Rio Tinto (NYSE:RTP), and Vale (NYSE:VALE) -- Freeport is not immune to potential geopolitical difficulties. Just this year, the company opened a huge copper and cobalt mine in the Democratic Congo. It now seems that the authorities in Kinshasa are conducting a "contract review" at the big Tenke Fungurume mine, along with several other facilities in the country.

When asked about the situation during the company's conference call, CEO Richard Adkerson responded, "There's not much to say other than we are continuing discussion." In this age of resource nationalism, it would appear that those talks could lead to nothing or they could be costly to Freeport.

So we're working our way through the U.S.-based metals companies, starting with Alcoa (NYSE:AA) breaking its slump, stopping at Freeport, and heading toward U.S. Steel (NYSE:X) next week. As to Freeport specifically, my advice to Fools is to keep this very solid company clearly in your sights. 

Freeport-McMoRan is rated a four-star company by Motley Fool CAPS players. After its latest results, would you agree?

Earlier in his career Fool contributor David Lee Smith spent time wandering around Arizona copper mines. His shoes still show it. He doesn't own shares in any of the companies above. The Fool has a disclosure policy.