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Ontario Centre of Innovation
RockMass is bringing mining into the 21st century

Success Stories

RockMass is bringing mining into the 21st century

Before starting RockMass, Shelby Yee began her career mapping in underground mines using pencil crayons. She knew there had to be a better way. One day at a pub, she ran into a researcher who mentioned they had a new way to do mapping.

So, Yee set out to bring the mining industry into the 21st century with the launch of RockMass. Yee started RockMass, where she serves as CEO, in 2016 alongside fellow Queen’s University student Stuart Bourne.

RockMass has since grown into a global company working with some of the largest mining companies in the world. Its customers span North America, Europe, and Australia.

“People would be working, literally drawing with a pencil crayon, one kilometer underground in a billion-dollar operation. I saw the opportunity to bring that into the 21st century and create a really smart solution for them that was based off of this PhD thesis and research,” says Yee.

Using LiDAR, RockMass’ hardware and software technology allows geological engineers to easily gather and analyze data. It also helps geologists and engineers stay away from hazardous environments, and optimize their time in the field to perform analysis for key regions of the mine.

“I like to think about it as our solution should be as synonymous with engineers and geologists as it is with you grabbing your cell phone to go to work. It should be the same; they grab RockMass EON as they go underground and they don’t leave without it,” says Yee.

The LiDAR technology that RockMass makes available to its customers has been significantly changing the way mines operate by taking a historically manual process and making it easier and quicker. LiDAR stands for Light Detection and Ranging and is a remote sensing method that uses light in the form of a pulsed laser to measure distances. The technology has become increasingly popular and is used in other industries, including autonomous vehicles and space exploration.

The remote sensing ability is particularly useful in mines, and RockMass’ technology can be used in a wide range of environments and conditions. In fact, RockMass is currently working to expand into tunneling and infrastructure to help with remote mapping in those industries.

In 2021, RockMass won the Ontario Centre of Innovation (OCI)’s Mind to Market Award, which celebrates the best OCI-supported research collaboration resulting in effective commercialization of leading-edge ideas and solutions. With support from the Next Generation Networks Demonstration Program, RockMass conducted a demo at the NORCAT Underground Centre, an operating mine that allows for training and innovation.

“OCI is actually quite a special part in the history of the company,” says Yee. “OCI was the second source of funding that we ever received. It really enabled us to continue to work on our product and provided the capital to go out and validate it back in the first year of operating.”

OCI is proud to have supported RockMass through a number of programs and funds since then as the company grew significantly.

In that time, Yee has seen both RockMass and the mining tech industry grow significantly.

“At the beginning, it was seen as a niche industry. But in the last two to three years, as the mainstream media has realized the importance of energy transition and the metals that will be required to make that transition successful, I’ve seen a lot of funds being open, focusing specifically on mining, and looking for solutions on mining,” says Yee.

Yee sees RockMass specifically as the future of digital mining. “RockMass is building the foundation for underground data.”

With that in mind, RockMass’ expansion into tunneling and infrastructure will see the formal launch of a product specific for that sector later this year.

Learn more about the innovative work that RockMass is doing:

YouTube video