Vale‘s board of directors has approved a $21.4bn investment budget for its operations in 2012.

The firm will invest $12.9bn for project execution, $2.4bn for research and development and $6.1bn to sustain existing operations.

Currently, the firm has 20 main projects approved by the board and under construction, which comprise 75% of the investment allocated to project execution.

Under the research and development, Vale has allocated $918m for mineral exploration programmes in Americas, Australia, Asia and Africa, to develop its potash, phosphate rock, iron ore, nickel, coal and copper reserves.

The firm will also invest $591m for technological innovation, new processes and adaptation, plus $848m for conceptual prefeasibility and feasibility studies, under research and development.

The $6.1bn sustaining budget will be used to maintain production levels, improve operational efficiency, excellence in health and safety, as well as environmental protection.

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Vale will expand tailing dams and residual stockpiles to maintain the production rates, along with improving maintenance management and also improving managerial efficiency by integrating information throughout the firm.