What we are going to do, and why

The Project Ultra is investigating large metallic sulphide deposits formed in magnesium-rich, ultramafic mantle rocks exposed by huge smooth, flat-lying detachment faults at the Mid-Atlantic Ridge in water depths of around three kilometres.

These ultramafic seafloor massive sulphides (µSMS) are rich in Au, Cu, Ni and E-tech (including Co, Se and Pt), which are critical for the transformation to low-carbon technologies.

This research will help us understand how these deposits form, how big they are, and the role of microbial communities in the alteration of the sulphides. Project Ultra is part of a wider portfolio of research on deep-sea mineral deposits and the potential environmental impacts of any future extraction.

  • How we are going to do it

    Project Ultra will involve two cruises onboard the British research ship, RSS James Cook.

    ULTRA 1 in March and April 2022
    The sites of mineralisation will be surveyed by a robotic underwater vehicle called HyBIS.

    It will identify and place landing lights around the drilling targets, take rock samples, and make video surveys to map the seafloor. It will also precisely place ocean bottom seismometers on the seafloor.

    ULTRA 2 in 2023
    The second cruise will deploy the Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) Isis to recover samples from the sealed boreholes drilling in ULTRA 1, which will be analysed for information on their composition and source.

  • How is it funded?

    UKRI and the Natural Environment Research Council are funding Project Ultra as part of their research strategy for addressing issues of immediate societal concern. Industrial partners Equinor A/S and Green Minerals A/S are each sponsoring PhD students to work on the project.

    UK and international academic partners:
    National Oceanography Centre
    British Geological Survey
    University of Cardiff
    University of Southampton
    University of Leeds
    GEOMAR (Germany)
    University of Bergen (Norway)
    Memorial University (Canada)