Richardson joined Wollondilly Liberal candidate Sharryn Hilton and Camden Liberal candidate Chris Patterson to denounce the NSW Government’s inquiry into the same issue, which was announced in December.
“The belated decision to announce an inquiry into longwall coal mining in the southern coal fields has only come after consistent and persistent calls for an independent commission of inquiry by the Liberal Party,” Richardson said.
“The Labor Government has had 12 years to look into the effects of longwall mining near the Nepean and Bargo rivers and has done nothing.”
Richardson said he had concerns as to whether the government-appointed panel could carry out a truly independent inquiry.
"Our commission of inquiry would be headed up by a judge or retired judge who would be advised by a panel of experts. But it would be truly independent of Government. I don't believe Labor's review panel will be," Richardson said.
Patterson said he believed there was a lack of environmental expertise on the panel.
“The Iemma Government has announced a five-person review panel but only a commission of inquiry will provide independence, greater consultation and greater community involvement,” Patterson said.
“An independent commission of inquiry should satisfy everybody that the Nepean and Bargo rivers are being protected, as well as providing certainty for the mining industry.”
But NSW Minerals Council chief executive Dr Nikki Williams criticised the calls for a commission of inquiry.
Williams said the independent expert panel announced by the State Government in December will provide a detailed, science-based investigation.
“The panel includes some of Australia’s leading authorities on the impacts of mining near watercourses and natural features,” Williams said.
“There is an inference in Mr Richardson’s call for a commission of inquiry that the independent expert panel is inadequate or even lacking in independence. Such an inference sullies the reputation of leading scientific practitioners.
“The coal mining industry relies on those who have the demonstrated technical expertise to provide advice in the areas of geology and environmental impacts. By politicising an already emotive issue which requires clear, science-based assessment, Mr Richardson threatens to do a great disservice to the community and the industry.”
Williams said the coal industry had welcomed the announcement of the independent expert panel and remained confident that it would provide greater clarity on the issues for the entire community.
“There is obviously a degree of genuine community concern about the impacts of longwall mining on natural features, particularly water in the southern coal fields. The industry is equally genuine in its commitment to addressing those concerns,” Williams said.
“The industry recognises that mining activities can have some impacts. The independent panel is a positive move. We are confident that the process will facilitate an open discussion which supports an independent, science-based assessment of the issue.”