Whittall, who is Pike River Coal’s former chairman, is facing 12 criminal charges in relation to the tragedy which resulted in the deaths of 29 men.
He plans to “vigorously” defend the charges.
He has been charged with eight offences of acquiescing or participating in the failures of Pike River Coal as an employer and as a principal and faces four charges of failing to take all practicable steps to ensure no action or inaction of his as an employee harmed another person.
VLI Drilling and Pike River Coal are also being prosecuted for the November 2010 explosion.
According to local news service nzherald.co.nz, lawyers for all three parties appeared at Greymouth court but none of the defendants were present.
The news service quoted DOL lawyer Brent Stanaway as saying the hearing was a callover remand.
"This will enable the [Department of Labour] to make full disclosure to all parties – and that disclosure will be substantial,” Stanaway reportedly said.
Judge Emma Smith reportedly adjourned the case until March, in which all three parties are expected to plea.
Each charge carries a maximum penalty of $NZ250,000.