Running Cleveland-Cliffs (NYSE:CLF) seems to have become a two-handed effort. One hand attempts to stiff-arm activist shareholders, while the other scoops up a steady string of acquisitions.

A couple of months ago, as my Foolish colleague Christopher Barker told you, the company announced that it would pay nearly $10 billion for its coal mining competitor Alpha Natural Resources (NYSE:ANR). The purchase would make Cliffs -- whose moniker would be changed to Cliffs Natural Resources -- about equal parts coal purveyor and iron ore producer.

Following that announcement, however, the proposed deal has been under fire from the company's biggest shareholder, hedge fund Harbinger Capital Partners. Harbinger currently holds about 15.6% of Cliffs' shares, and for whatever reason, it opposes the Alpha Natural purchase. (The deal needs the approval of two-thirds of Cleveland-Cliffs' shareholders.) Harbinger has also proposed that it be permitted to expand its holding in Cleveland-Cliffs to between a fifth and a third of the company's outstanding shares.

It's likely that any meaningful increase in Harbinger's stake would severely threaten the Alpha Natural Resources deal. Cliffs has sent a letter to its shareholders urging a "no" vote on Harbinger's proposal at the company's annual meeting Oct. 3.

Separately, it appears that Cleveland-Cliffs will pay about $450 million for the nearly 15% of Australian iron ore miner Portman Ltd. that it doesn't already own. And it'll cough up another couple of dozen million for a 30% stake in AusQuest, a manganese prospector in the western part of Australia. There's no indication how Harbinger feels about these two deals.

I must admit I'm impressed by Cleveland-Cliffs' ability to grow through canny acquisition. In the U.S., it's become the largest factor in iron ore production, even leading big integrated steel producers U.S. Steel (NYSE:X) and ArcelorMittal (NYSE:MT). And much like St. Louis-based Peabody Energy (NYSE:BTU), it's wasted no time in moving strongly into Australia and Brazil, which lets it serve a host of growing international locations, including the active markets of China and surrounding countries.

With all this in mind, I'll be closely watching Cliffs' annual meeting next month. It should be an important harbinger for a promising operation.

I'm giving a thumbs-up to three-star-rated Cleveland-Cliffs. What's your Motley Fool CAPS opinion?

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Fool contributor David Lee Smith doesn't have financial interests in any of the companies mentioned above. He does, however, welcome your questions or comments. The Fool has a disclosure policy.