The head of the Mine Safety and Health Administration has agreed in principle to testify before the Utah panel looking into the Crandall Canyon Mine disaster.

Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. said Thursday during his monthly press conference on KUED Channel 7 that he believes the mine safety commission he formed in the wake of the Crandall Canyon accident is being taken seriously by federal officials.

Huntsman said he met with the chairman of the commission, Scott Matheson Jr., on Wednesday and was told Richard Stickler, the assistant labor secretary in charge of the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration, is willing to appear before the commission.

Matheson confirmed the invitation to the Deseret Morning News.

"His office indicated that he wants to (appear) and we're just working on logistics, coordinating dates," said Matheson.

He said the commission has yet to choose the date for its next meeting, but a decision is expected in the next few days.

Speaking about having Stickler testify before the state mine panel, Matheson said, "I think it would be very good. He's got a lot of experience and in particular he has a lot of experience in understanding different approaches to this issue (of mine safety). "We're very interested in talking with him about that."

The mine commission was created in August following the disaster at Crandall Canyon Mine and is charged with reviewing the state's role in mine safety, accident prevention and response.

Calling Stickler "probably the foremost expert on mine safety," the governor said, "I think that would be an important step. They're making progress. I'm proud of the work that's being done."

Huntsman said he expected an interim report from the commission detailing what's needed from the 2008 Legislature that begins meeting in mid-January.

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