Pike River survivor: 'It is a cover-up'

A Pike River survivor says politicians need to put aside arguments about leaked video from the mine and just get the 29 bodies out.

Russell Smith was one of only two survivors of the 2010 tragedy and believes a cover-up has taken place.

Russell Smith pike river mine (Newshub.)
Russell Smith (Newshub.)

He's surprised there was video footage in the first place of two men entering the mine three months after the 2010 explosion with a robot.

The video, obtained exclusively by Newshub, shows a robot traversing the mine's drift with two men in Mines Rescue uniform wearing breathing apparatus walking alongside it.

The robot's journey ends when it encounters an abandoned loader.

A second video shows two mine rescue workers in an airlocked portal in the mine's entry waiting to go inside.

There's also a letter pinned to the tunnel addressed to the killed miners.

The videos have become a political football, with some claiming it is the evidence which proves a re-entry - manned or otherwise - is possible. Winston Peters has made changing the law to allow access to the site a "bottom line" in post-election coalition talks.

Prime Minister Bill English doesn't think the video changes anything.

There were also questions about how far into the mine the workers were in the videos and how much methane gas they could have been exposed to.

But Mr Smith believes that's an intentional muddying of the waters to keep the "cover-up" of what really happened going. 

"It makes no difference how far they are and they're trying to make light of just where those men were standing so that's an issue they'll use to try and cover it up - and I do think it is a cover-up - they just do not want...they'll try anything to stop people going up there."

Mr Smith didn't even know of the footage's existence, however had seen still images of the loader before.

"[I] had no idea there was footage of it moving and to see men up the mine; that was quite surprising," he told Newshub.

There were differing statements from police, the families and Mr English over when and whether the families had seen the 30 hours of footage from the mine.

Police say the video of the robot wasn't passed on to family or the Royal Commission because they didn't think it had "evidential value".

Mr Smith questioned that rationale.

"There's no reason to keep something like that back."

But should there ever be a recovery operation, Mr Smith doesn't envy what will be asked of those responsible.

"But they've got a difficult task to go out there and come across bodies that have been lying there for five or six years; that's hard on them as well."