Germany’s lignite reserves are inexpensive to produce, making it one of the world’s largest lignite producers (20% of global output). Germany has the largest coal reserves in the EU, of which over 97 percent are lignite (brown coal), with the remainder being bituminous and anthracite (hard coal). According to the 2008 BP Statistical Energy Survey, Germany had end 2007 coal reserves of 6708 million tonnes. Germany is the seventh largest coal producer in the world, producing a total of 201.86 million tonnes of coal in 2007 while consuming 86.03 million tonnes oil equivalent. Germany is the world’s fourth largest coal consumer, importing the bulk of its coal from Poland, South Africa and Russia.
The Rhenish (Rhineland) lignite-mining region covers an area of around 2,500km² to the west of Cologne. RWE Power operates four large opencast mines in the district – Hambach, Garzweiler, Inden and Bergheim – which between them produced 96.2Mt of lignite in 2006. The brown coal industry is dominated by RAG Aktiengesellschaft and RWE Power. .
The Government of Germany announced in January 2007 that it planned to shut down its eight remaining black coal mines by 2018. This phase-out will be reviewed by parliament again in 2012 to see if its still makes economic sense. Seven of the remaining mines are in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia, home to the Ruhr industrial region, and one is located in the small state of Saarland on the border with France. At present Germany's federal and regional governments subsidise coal mining by up to €2.5 billion a year and the deal ensures continued financial support for the sector until the last mine is closed. The plan does not affect Germany's brown coal mining sector which can produce coal more cheaply because it uses open-cast mines.