Kathu, meaning "town under the trees," is the iron ore capital of the province and supports a growing number of employees of the mine in the area.
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, together with the accompanying graphic. 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 town and the accompanying industrial area of Sishen came into being because of iron ore mining activity in the Kalahari — it has one of the five largest open-cast iron ore mining operations in the world. The primary drilling and 'load and haul' mining equipment used by the mine include giant ore trucks that bear about 260 ton of ore with each load. Mining shovels used to load these trucks can weigh in excess of 800 tons and drilling equipment include drills that can drill up to 400 mm holes for blasting purposes. Some of the world's longest ore trains travel through harsh territory on the Sishen-Saldanha railway to offload their cargo at Saldanha Bay. Kumba Iron Ore is the principal mine operator in Kathu.
Kathu has a golf course and a small, well-stocked game reserve also adjoins the town.
The town has a well established sporting complex including tennis courts, swimming pool and a golf course. One of the tennis courts is named after veteran tennis player Herta Hegewisch.