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Tuesday, March 30, 1999 Published at 12:44 GMT 13:44 UK

Business: The Economy

Colliery becomes sushi factory

For once, not getting your hands dirty

A factory producing the fashionable Japanese delicacy sushi has been opened on the site of a disused colliery.

The Solway Foods factory near Worksop in the East Midlands, England, hopes to employ 400 staff by the end of the year.

[ image: The old jobs at Manton Wood colliery are gone]
The old jobs at Manton Wood colliery are gone
Former miners are being trained at the site to make the raw fish and seaweed nibbles which are becoming increasingly fashionable in the UK.

Mark Orwin, a former miner who admits he had never heard of sushi, is one of the miners from the closed Manton Wood colliery who has retrained to work at the factory.

"There's a lot of machinery to work. 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," he said in his work outfit of hygienic white overalls and cloth hood.

[ image: Hard hats are being swapped for squeaky clean overalls like this]
Hard hats are being swapped for squeaky clean overalls like this
"I probably do look silly but so does everyone else who works in here. We all have to wear it in here," he added.

Solway Foods, which also makes sandwiches at the factory, has started making sushi ahead of its launch later this month in the freezer cabinets of a national supermarket chain.

It predicts that the UK wide market for sushi will top £10m by the end of the year.

Neil Adnitt, Solway's production director, said: "The workforce has been very, very adaptable.

[ image: Miners are learning to use a sushi maker's modern tool]
Miners are learning to use a sushi maker's modern tool
"We have spent a lot of time training. We started well in advance of opening the site. They have been very receptive and have got a good range of the skills which we need in this industry."

The sushi factory is one of a range of new industries which have been attracted to coalfield communities across the UK with the aim of diversifying their economies and bringing new jobs to areas which have lost mining jobs.

In the last 15 years, more than 150,000 jobs have been lost in the UK coal industry, with less than 20,000 remaining.

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