Pike River Coal chief executive Peter Whittall says the families of the 29 workers killed at the West Coast mine were not given false hope about the chances of survival.
Chief Coroner Judge Neil MacLean told an inquest in Greymouth on Thursday that he knew in early December he would be dealing with unrecoverable, lost or destroyed bodies.
Judge MacLean found that the men died during or immediately on 19 November after the first of a series of explosions.
Mr Whittall says he always believed there was a chance the men survived the first explosion, but the second definitely changed that.
A Royal Commission into the disaster is to begin later in the year. The men's families have had legal advice not to comment before then.