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Sushi boom makes work for ex-miners

SOME FORMER miners in the Midlands facing a jobless future after their pit closed have turned their hands to making sushi. The Japanese delicacy is increasingly fashionable in the UK and a factory has opened on the site of a disused colliery near Worksop.

There, ex-miners, many unemployed for years, are being trained to prepare the intricate raw fish and seaweed dishes. Mark Orwin, who lost his job at the Manton colliery, admits he had never heard of sushi before he started work at Solway Foods is happy to have a job. "I used to work a lot of machinery down the pit, although it is obviously different stuff here, smaller of course, but you can get on with it."

Sally Mitchell, the factory manager, said the miners had proved adaptable. "We started them off on sandwiches to get them used to it." she said. The men were given samples to take home and, after initial scepticism, it proved surprisingly popular. The company is hoping to expand over the next year to employ 400 people.

Manton is one of several pits that have been reborn. In Barnsley, the former Dodworth colliery is now a Japanese ball bearing factory. Miners in Mansfield are now employed making car seats for Toyota.

Cadeby and Denaby mines in Doncaster, which closed about 10 years ago with the loss of 10,000 jobs, have been converted into The Earth Centre, a series of galleries dedicated to environmental issues. The centre opens today and employs some former miners as security guards and guides.

But Joan Dixon, of the Coalfields Communities Campaign, said that although companies were claiming to employ former miners, there was a long way to go to find new jobs for all 250,000 who lost their jobs when the pits closed.

"We are campaigning for jobs and to regenerate the coalfields, and if there are any companies setting up new factories then obviously we would rather they came to these areas, but there are still thousands of them who are unemployed," she said.

"They are very hard-working and they want to work."