Perpetual Mine Management Obligations
The perpetual mine management obligations resulting from the coal-mining operations of the RAG Corporation (also referred to as “inherited liabilities with unlimited duration”), which the RAG-Stiftung has been financing since the beginning of 2019, are water management measures that will continue in perpetuity even after coal mining has ceased.
In order to be able to finance the perpetual mine management obligations, the RAG-Stiftung invests its assets in a safe and profitable manner. It is estimated that – beginning in 2019 – the foundation will have to spend around €280 million annually in order to finance its perpetual mine management obligations. The perpetual obligations do NOT include the repair of damage due to mining, the renaturation of land used for mining, the restoration of old shafts or other tasks related to inherited liabilities with limited duration. RAG AG will also continue to bear the costs of these activities after mining is discontinued. It built up provisions for this purpose early on.
During active hard coal mining in Germany, pit water that seeped into mines deep underground had to be continuously pumped to the surface in order to keep the shafts and tunnels dry. Even after the closing of the last German hard coal mine at the end of 2018, the pit water will have to be pumped out, especially in order to prevent it from mixing with drinking water. The collected pit water is transported to the surface by huge pumps through meter-wide pipes. The pump system has a redundant arrangement so that if a pump fails, it can be quickly replaced by another. Engineers are continuously working on concepts for the long-term optimization of the pit water management measures in the mining areas. The RAG Corporation currently has a total of 17 pit water management facilities, and it is now planning to reduce this number to six facilities in the Ruhr area and to one in Ibbenbüren. On account of the favourable geological conditions in the Saarland, it is expected that no pumping will be necessary there over the long term after the corresponding authorization processes have been completed. It will then be possible to channel all of the pit water into the Saar River without applying any pressure.
Over the centuries, mining has also caused changes to landscapes. Entire regions have subsided — in extreme cases, by up to 25 meters. The surface water will always have to be actively regulated in these areas in order to prevent it from collecting in the depressions. To ensure that the water is properly drained, the foundation has to operate and maintain special pumping facilities and deepen bodies of water.
Some former mining facilities, especially former coking plants, have contaminated areas that must be cleaned up. After it has been determined where groundwater is contaminated, the water is collected and cleaned to prevent it from mixing with clean water and spreading. Regular checks are made to ensure that the measures are successful.
Beginning in 2019, the RAG-Stiftung will have to spend an estimated €280 million annually on perpetual mine management. The management of the pit water alone accounts for about two thirds of these costs. The RAG-Stiftung has committed itself to funding the perpetual management measures in order to reduce the costs for the public sector and thus for the taxpayers.
The correction of mining-related damage is expressly not a perpetual management measure. This is damage to buildings, properties, and roads that has been caused by mining. As was the case in the past, the correction of mining-related damage is paid for not by the RAG-Stiftung but directly by the RAG Corporation. This is also the case after 2018.