In 2007 the German federal government reached an agreement with the governments of the coal-mining states North Rhine-Westphalia and Saarland, the RAG Corporation, and the Mining, Chemical and Energy Industrial Union (IG BCE) to discontinue government subsidies for coal mining and find socially acceptable means of ending the mining of coal in Germany by 2018. The result of this agreement was the establishment of the RAG-Stiftung ("RAG Foundation") in June 2007. The RAG-Stiftung has the following tasks:
Germany’s last two coal mines will be closed down at the end of 2018. This scheduled termination of an entire industry is a predetermined process that was initiated with the coal policy agreement of February 7, 2007 between the German federal government, the states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Saarland, RAG, and the IG BCE. It is being funded in line with the Hard Coal Mining Financing Law passed by the German parliament on December 20, 2007.
As the owner of the RAG Corporation, the RAG-Stiftung is commissioned to achieve the goals that were mutually formulated in this agreement. These goals include the socially acceptable discontinuation of subsidized coal mining. The foundation is providing qualification training to the employees promptly so that they can reenter the job market, and it is also informing them about new employment opportunities. Some employees are opting to end their working lives by accepting socially acceptable offers of early retirement.
The socially acceptable discontinuation of subsidized coal mining, together with the associated perpetual mine management, is a major social challenge for the affected regions and beyond. The RAG-Stiftung greatly reduces the financial strain on the public sector, because it will finance its perpetual management tasks with income from the foundation’s assets (i.e. income from its capital and holdings). The foundation’s assets that are available for this purpose mainly consist of assets that were generated by coal mining in the affected regions. This is because Evonik Industries AG and Vivawest GmbH have their origins in coal mining and the former RAG Group. In the unlikely case that the RAG-Stiftung’s assets do not suffice to finance these tasks, the federal government and the governments of the two coal-mining states have guaranteed that they will supply the required funds. The RAG-Stiftung is working to make sure no shortfall occurs.
Coal mining has created an extensive system of underground shafts and tunnels and has also had an impact on the landscape in the mining regions. These man-made changes must be permanently managed. In addition to securing the shafts and tunnels and eliminating mining-related damage — tasks that the RAG Corporation will have to finance even after 2018 — the foundation has to implement measures for the permanent management of pit water and groundwater. After the coal-mining operations are discontinued, these perpetual management tasks will be funded by the RAG-Stiftung.
Intensive underground and aboveground water management is a corollary of coal mining, because coal can only be extracted at great depths if the pit water that seeps into the galleries is continuously pumped out. The pit water still has to be continuously pumped out even after coal is no longer being mined. This is due to a variety of reasons, such as the need to protect drinking water.
Moreover, pumping facilities have to be operated in some areas in order to prevent lakes from forming above ground as a result of mine subsidence. Last but not least, groundwater purification facilities are operated in former mining areas to protect the groundwater. This active pit water and groundwater management cannot be discontinued after coal mining has ceased; it is a task that has to be performed in perpetuity.
In addition to funding perpetual obligations, the RAG-Stiftung has the purpose of financing educational, scientific and cultural projects in the Ruhr and Saar regions, provided they are related to the coal-mining industry. For example, the RAG-Stiftung funds training programmes for teenagers in the former Ruhr and Saar mining regions and supports scientific research regarding the consequences of Germany’s coal mining activities.
In future, the foundation will also support the further development of institutions that used to be regularly funded by RAG AG and whose survival would be at stake with the cessation of coal mining. Among them are the German Mining Museum (which also conducts research), the private Georg Agricola University of Applied Sciences in Bochum, and the miners’ choirs and orchestras.