You don't have to be a certified codger to recall when the words "business" and "Russia" rarely made it into the same sentence. But, my goodness, how things have changed, with the country possibly bearing down on big-enchilada status among owners of metals and mining assets.

Indeed, if a trio of Russian entrepreneurs are successful, the world's current big three of mining and metals -- Australia's BHP Billiton (NYSE:BHP), the U.K.'s Rio Tinto (NYSE:RTP), and Brazil's Vale (NYSE:RIO) -- would welcome a new member to their ranks. The new player on the block would be a company that is apparently being formed by Russian tycoons Vladimir Potanin, Alisher Usmanov, and Oleg Deripaska.

The merger-and-acquisition wrangling to create the new major player is messy to the point that it doesn't bear full description. Trust me, you'd rather wrestle an actual Russian bear than read the full details of this proposed three-way merger. What does matter, however, is that it appears that the ultimate goal of two of the men, Potanin and Usmanov, is a full merger of three existing metals companies, which a pair of Lehman Brothers analysts have estimated could be worth $100 billion. A good margin less than BHP, Rio Tinto, or Vale, but still plenty sizable.

This, of course, is hardly the only metals and mining activity emanating from Mother Russia these days. So what should we make of all this frenetic activity? This proposed deal, along with Aluminum Corp. of China's (NYSE:ACH) stake in Rio Tinto and rumored interest in a BHP position -- reflects the world's voracious appetite for metals. That trend should make you consider building a position in the group. Any of the three companies mentioned in the second paragraph above would represent an ideal place to begin.

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