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Shares of Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. (FCX - Analyst Report) hit a new 52-week high of $38.09 on Jan 2 and eventually closed at $37.63.

Freeport’s shares have recorded a one-year return of roughly 15%. The company’s long-term estimated earnings per share (EPS) growth rate is 12.2%. Freeport’s average volume of shares traded over the last three months was approximately 10,395K.

What is Driving Freeport Up?

Freeport, which carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold), has made a major stride to venture into the U.S. energy space. The acquisiton of Plains Exploration and McMoRan Exploration represents a part of Freeport’s strategy to diversify from its bread-and-butter copper mining business. The buyouts has  ushered in new opportunities for Freeport. The merger is expected to make the combined entity a leading natural resource conglomerate in the U.S., leveraging Freeport’s industry-leading mineral assets and the oil and gas resources of Plains and McMoRan.

The addition of Plains’ established oil production assets and McMoRan’s natural gas drilling capabilities and shallow water ultra-deep properties provides Freeport a significant exposure to energy markets.

Freeport is conducting explorations close to its existing mines with a goal to boost reserves, which will facilitate the development of additional future production capacity. Favorable exploration results indicate opportunities for significant future potential reserve additions in North and South America and in the Tenke Fungurume minerals district.

Freeport also continues to progress with its expansion initiatives in Latin America. At Cerro Verde, Peru, a large-scale concentrator expansion continues to advance. The roughly $4.4 billion project would expand the concentrator facilities from 120,000 metric tons of ore per day to 360,000 metric tons of ore per day and provide incremental annual production of around 600 million pounds of copper and 15 million pounds of molybdenum beginning in 2016.  

Other Stocks to Consider

Other players in the mining industry worth considering are  Tahoe Resources Inc. (TAHO - Snapshot Report), 5N Plus Inc. and Anglo American Platinum Limited (AGPPY). While Tahoe Resources holds a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy), both 5N Plus and Anglo American Platinum retain a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).

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