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.

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.