Sishen iron ore mine is a mine near the town of Kathu in the Northern Cape province in South Africa. The iron ore mine opened in the 1950s. Kathu the town beside developed in parallel to the mine. In fact, the Sishen iron ore mine is one of the biggest iron ore mines in the world. That’s why Kathu is also called Africa’s iron ore capital.
The iron ore mine in Sishen has a unique feature. The mineral is called Magnetite correctly. This iron ore is ferrimagnetic. So far, most iron ore mine in the world is non-magnetic. However, the red-brown mineral gives the landscape around Kathu the typical rusty colour. When the mineral is crushed it has a graphite shiny surface.
Iron ore is Kathu’s mineral treasure, the camel thorn tree forest is the ecological treasure.
Sometimes on a very windy day, a big red cloud of dust moves over the town. Then Kathu was covered by a red veil. Moreover, many houses were built with bricks made in the same rusty red-brown colour. After that, only the green of the vegetation shimmers in contrast to the red iron ore dust.
The iron ore is loaded by huge excavators on heavy dump trucks. The wheels of the trucks have a diameter of around four meters. The trucks easily carry more than 200 tonnes of iron ore. With heavy equipment, the mineral will proceed further. The mine is already visible from far.
Loaded on trains the iron ore is finally sent to the Atlantic coast for shipping worldwide. The electrified railway connection between Kathu and the west coast is known as the Sishen–Saldanha railway line. Some kilometres long trains carry the minerals to South Africa’s Atlantik coast. These trains are considered one of the longest trains in the world.