For almost seven decades long RAG Verkauf GmbH, Herne/Germany, made a significant contribution towards energy security in Germany (Figure 1). A success story whose last chapter comes to an end at the turn of the year. On 31st December 2020 – a good two years after the closure of the last two RAG mines – the former marketer of domestic coal and at one time Germany’s largest coal importer ceases its activities – but not without paving the way for the future for the staff, as well as individual business and product areas.
“RAG Verkauf has always played a decisive role for the RAG Group”, says Michael Kalthoff, RAG Chief Financial Officer and Chairman of the Advisory Board of RAG Verkauf. Thanks to detailed market knowledge and very good customer contacts, the sales specialists always managed to reliably sell the extraction of the local mines, even in difficult times. An extraordinary achievement, which was also necessary in order to make possible the entire phase-out process of the German coal mining sector in a socially acceptable manner. Because the necessary public funding was not available for the extracted, but for the sold tonnes of coal. According to Kalthoff, the efforts of all staff of RAG Verkauf therefore deserve the special appreciation and recognition of the Group’s entire workforce.
Despite these successes and a successful restructuring and development process, it was still unavoidable to cease the business operations of RAG Verkauf at the end of the year. Because without the domestic coal mining sector, RAG is simply no longer the so-called “Best Owner” in the post-mining era. Kalthoff is very pleased that it managed to close the company without any upheavals in a joint effort with the social partner.
RAG Verkauf employed more than 200 staff at its peak; in November 2020 this figure was still 16. The funds for the socially acceptable reduction of staff essentially covered transferring people from one job to another through the sale of entire business units including job guarantee for the RAG Verkauf staff, as well as semi-retirement models. “My heartfelt thanks to all involved for the successful realisation”, says Kalthoff. “And in particular to our social partner, who was always by our side during the entire time.”
The Steelworks Agreement concluded in 1968 and extended in 1985 and the Century Contract concluded in 1977 with its supplementary agreements between the mining and electricity industry were the basis for the supplies of German coal until into the 1990s (Figure 2).
“Since 1996 the sale of German coal has been in competition with the global market price. We are proud that RAG Verkauf sold over 0.6 bn t of coal and coke since then”, says Manfred Müller, Chairman of the Managing Board. “Over all these years the objectives of RAG Verkauf were able to be achieved thanks to the high identification and motivation of our staff.”
Since the company’s foundation in 1953, at that time it was called Präsident Ruhrkohlen Verkaufsgesellschaft mbH, the company has pursued a major core business: the marketing of German coal. Supplies of fine coal, lump coal and low-grade coal to the power industry represented the largest business area. Apart from large energy supply companies, other customers included municipal utilities and municipal providers. Through wholesale channels in the heating market sized anthracite also went to small consumers such as nurseries and garden centres who do not convert it into electricity or also as domestic fuel to public buildings and private households.
The large customers of the iron and steel producing industry used coking coal for their coking plants, as well as coke and pulverised coal injection for direct use in their furnaces. RAG Verkauf was also responsible for the sale of foundry coke, crushed coke and coke breeze. There was also products on the “white side” of the coking plants, mainly gas and coal derivatives such as tar and ammonia, which are used in the chemical industry as a raw material for numerous products – from toothpaste to plastics through to fertilisers.
Other business activities were added over the years, such as the marketing of tailings, which arose with the coal production, and the material flow management for the resource-friendly treatment and recycling of various materials. This also includes the cost-optimised and on-time secure backfilling of the RAG shafts no longer in use, which is a basic prerequisite for the release of the mine areas from the mining authority and thus also for the establishment of companies and jobs.
Since the middle of the 1990s, RAG Verkauf has also marketed international coal in addition to German coal and in 1998 became Germany’s biggest coal importer. The company purchased the import coking coal required for the Prosper coke plant directly from producers in Australia, the USA and Canada. The sale of the coke plant to ArcelorMittal Bremen in 2011, in which RAG Verkauf played a role in the negotiations, did not change anything in this regard.
The business also changed with the end of the German coal mining sector. The direct marketing of coal and coke is completed. In order to give the “International coal and coke trade” business unit prospects for the future, RAG Verkauf sold it in August 2018 to Xcoal Energy & Resources Germany GmbH with its registered office in Essen. By the end of 2020, RAG Verkauf secured the commercial winding-up of German coal production and is further developing the material flow management business field, including the shaft backfilling. From 2021 this business unit will be continued under the umbrella of RAG Montan Immobilien GmbH. (RAG/Si)