Based on the aggregated intelligence of 180,000-plus investors participating in Motley Fool CAPS, the Fool's free investing community, the 10 stocks we'll discuss today are the highest rated in the metals and mining industry.

CAPS contains more than just the crowd's opinions. The votes of CAPS' best-performing members, known as All-Stars, count more in shaping each company's rating than do the picks of their poorer-performing peers. That way, the highest-rated companies aren't just the most popular companies in the industry -- in this case, Nucor (NYSE: NUE) -- but are the best of the best. You can then intelligently use members' collective wisdom to make better decisions and find hidden treasures you may never have otherwise heard of.

The mining industry has been doing well as demand in China has kept prices rising even as the U.S. and Europe muddle along. Mining companies' profits have varied along with the supply-and-demand characteristics of the specific metals they mine. Gold miners such as Yamana Gold (NYSE: AUY) have been doing well as gold has neared $2,000 an ounce. The Fool's metals expert, Christopher Barker, thinks Yamana is worth double what it trades for now. Silver miners have also been doing well as silver has risen, but Silver Wheaton (NYSE: SLW), a silver-streamer, is Christopher's choice for the best stock among silver companies.

Not all of mining glistens like gold, though. Copper companies including Southern Copper (NYSE: SCCO) have been crushed this year as the price of copper fell almost 30%. It's not necessarily the biggest names that are the best investments; the ones that are hidden away can be worth the most.

The highest-rated metals and mining stock is ...
Looking at the aggregate data, we see that our community rates Amcol International (NYSE: ACO) above the rest, and for good reason. As CAPS player awallejr wrote:

Even during weak times this company raised its dividend. While short term the company will continue to face challenges due to the recession, it is still a nicely profitable company. And as the global economy eventually picks up, so should this company.

Here are the rest of the 10 highest-rated companies in the industry, along with their CAPS ratings.

CAPS Rating (out of 5)
Market Cap (in Millions)
1 Amcol International ***** $948
2 Sims Metal Management ***** $2,750
3 Haynes International ***** $670
4 Horsehead Holding ***** $358
5 Mesabi Trust ***** $350
6 Globe Specialty Metals (Nasdaq: GSM) ***** $1,105
7 Kimber Resources ***** $101
8 Denison Mines (AMEX: DNN) ***** $553
9 Cameco ***** $7,820
10 Compass Minerals International ***** $2,516

Source: Motley Fool CAPS as of Nov. 7, 2011.

Use the table as a first step to help generate ideas for further research. Having a watchlist of promising companies is a great place to start. We can help you keep tabs on these companies with My Watchlist, our free, personalized stock tracking service. Get started now!

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.