Kathu is located in the Kalahari region of the Northern Cape of South Africa. The picturesque little
town owes its existence to one of the largest open-cast iron ore mining operations in the world,
being the Sishen mine.
The name Kathu means "town under the trees", which is derived from the Camel Thorn forest in
which Kathu situated. The Camel Thorn forest is one of only two, the other being between Mariental
and Rehoboth in Namibia. Its uniqueness was recognized in the early 1920s when it was declared a
State Forest. In 1995 it was registered as a Natural Heritage Site.
The phrase "the town under the trees" was coined by an engineer working in the town in the early
1990s as part of a tourist marketing drive. It was intended to be a marketing slogan. The meaning of
the word "Kathu" has anecdotally been attributed to a porridge brewed by the local population from
the powder found in the pods of the Camel Thorn trees.
The Sishen Mine opened in 1947 and is Kumba's flagship operation and one of the largest open-pit
mines in the world. All mining is done by open-cast methods, with ore transported to the
beneficiation plant where it is crushed, screened and beneficiated. Kumba is the only haematite ore
producer in the world to fully beneficiate its product, made possible through dense medium
separation (DMS) and jig technology. The longest and heaviest train carried ore from Sishen mine to
Saldanha, a 7,5km train of 660 wagons carried 68 640 tonnes of ore. Normally, trains to Saldanha
comprise 342 wagons transporting 100 tonnes each.
Residents and visitors to Kathu can also enjoy a game of golf at what is considered by many to be
one of the most scenic golf courses in the country. Currently ranked in the top 30 Golf courses in
South Africa, the course winds its way through a 500 hectare Camelthorn forest on the edge of the
Kathu has numerous spacious residential stands, older houses (initially built and funded by the mine
for its employees) as well as newly built and modern houses to meet every need. Adjacent to Kathu
are numerous well-established sheep, cattle and game farms and the area is exceptionally suited for
game, particularly springbok, blesbok and Kudu.
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