NEW YORK (

TheStreet

) -- Metals and mining stocks paced the broader equities sell-off Monday as slower-than-expected GDP growth out of Japan heightened concerns about the prospects of a global economic rebound, and commodities prices dipped in response.

The losses Monday come two sessions after the metallurgic sector rose sharply on positive economic data out of France and Germany. The volatile moves underscore the schizophrenic nature of the markets here in the liminal economic territory of possible recovery, possible double-dip.

Investors, at any rate, sold off commodities as well as metal-related stocks in force during the session, fleeing to less cyclical plays.

Copper and gold concern

Freeport McMoRan

(FCX) - Get Report

was among the leading decliners. Its shares lost $4.30, or 6.7%, to reach $59.63.

The company has been plagued of late with violence at its enormous Grasberg mine in Papua, Indonesia. The latest incident occurred Sunday, when gunmen shot up a bus near the Grasberg complex -- five were injured -- which follows other shootings in recent weeks that officials have attributed to a Papuan separatist group. The Grasberg mine has been hotly criticized in the past for its pollution.

That wasn't the end of it for Freeport. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo -- where the company operates the Tenke Fungurume project, a huge copper and cobalt mine -- the government arrested three Freeport employees, alleging they had used a work-permit and visa scam to extort millions of dollars in public funds.

Freeport said it's cooperating with the Congolese, and pursuing its own investigation, but questions remain.

"These incidents at two of the company's highest profile mines, along with the decrease in copper prices, will likely weigh on the near-term prospects for the shares," wrote Anthony Rizzuto, an analyst at investment firm Dahlman Rose, in a research note.

Elsewhere, American Depositary Receipts of the three iron ore giants --

BHP Billiton

(BHP) - Get Report

,

Rio Tinto

(RTP) - Get Report

and

Vale

(VALE) - Get Report

-- all lost ground Monday. Chinese monetary officials indicated a willingness to tighten credit to prevent a bubble, as the country's economy and stock market have surged in the second half of the year.

Word out of one Chinese port, Rizhao, one of the biggest ore importation ports on earth, indicated that volumes would likely drop soon, which is not exactly an earth-shattering prediction. In July, Chinese ore imports reached record levels, and market participants have been attempting to divine all summer whether the surge has resulted from real demand or, rather, from the Chinese stimulus package.

The Shanghai stock market plunged 5.8% Monday, while in Japan the Nikkei index lost 3.1%.

Also complicating matters have been the ongoing ore-price negotiations between Chinese government officials and Rio Tinto, which has been playing point-man for the three mining companies. According to some reports, one Chinese steelmaker has broken away and struck its own deal with Rio, for a 35% price cut from last year's contract. China had been thought to be holding out for as much as a 45% cut.

At Monday's close in New York, Rio's ADRs lost $9.89, or 6.3%, to $148.40; BHP Billiton declined $2.75, or 4.4%, to $60.20; and Vale fell $1.06, or 5%, to $19.65.

Among other metals and mining stocks,

Alcoa

(AA) - Get Report

fell 86 cents, or 6.5%, to $12.41;

Southern Copper

(PCU)

retreated $1.59, or 5.8%, to $25.92; and

U.S. Steel

(X) - Get Report

dropped $3.82, or 8.3%, to $42.32.

-- Written by Scott Eden in New York

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