The world's largest publicly held copper producer, Freeport-McMoRan (NYSE: FCX) has been sliding like tots at a playground during the past 60 days, as copper prices have dropped from about $3.50 a pound in early April to a close right at $3 on Tuesday. The result for Freeport has been a nearly 24% decline in its own share prices over the past two months.

These slides have taken place in spite of gold's increased prices and the possibility that molybdenum, which the company also mines, is headed higher. Indeed, Toronto-based Thompson Creek Metals (NYSE: TC), another molybdenum producer, is openly anticipating a rebound in moly prices. The major driver there would be energy applications as far-reaching as deepwater wells, oil sands, and nuclear power. As for Freeport's other metal, our Chinese and Brazilian friends are also expected to be the engine for recovering copper demand.

And so, should price improvements occur -- Rio Tinto (NYSE: RTP) anticipates a copper shortage in 2011 -- Freeport stands to be one of the primary beneficiaries. The company boasts a number of strengths, including the geographic spread of its high-quality, long-lived minerals reserves. For instance, in the Americas, it mines copper and moly in the U.S. Southwest, along with copper and gold in Peru and Chile.

Its Grasberg operation in Papua, Indonesia, is the world's largest copper and gold mine in terms of reserves. And its still-new Tenke Fungurume operation in the Democratic Republic of Congo began producing copper cathode slightly more than a year ago. At the same time, that operation is moving toward full-scale production of cobalt and sulphuric acid.

In addition to its byproduct status at a couple of the U.S. copper mines, molybdenum is also produced at an underground mine in Colorado. Further, the company is considering restarting construction of another molybdenum project, which was shut down because of weak demand beginning in the final quarter of 2008. At the same time, exploration and capacity expansions are occurring at several of the company's facilities.

Freeport-McMoRan came into its own in 2007 when it acquired Phelps Dodge, a copper producer twice its size. Now, while I'm not making a solid prediction, it wouldn't surprise me if Freeport were to become an attractive target of the likes of BHP Billiton (NYSE: BHP) or Brazil's Vale (NYSE: VALE).

On that basis, as either a stand-alone company or the apple of another's eye, if you inquire whether Freeport is a buy, I wouldn't hesitate for a second with my affirmative response.

Fool contributor David Lee Smith doesn't own shares in any of the companies named above. He does, however, welcome your comments or questions. The Fool operates under an ironclad disclosure policy.