Construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) atop the Mauna Kea volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island will resume on Wednesday, TMT Observatory Corp., the organization behind the project, said in a statement released over the weekend. Work at the site, considered sacred by some native Hawaiians, was suspended in April following the arrest of protesters who refused to leave the area.
“After more than two months of consultation, education, and dialog with many stakeholders, we humbly announce that the TMT International Observatory Board has decided to move ahead to restart the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on the morning of Wednesday, June 24,” Henry Yang, chairman of the TMT Observatory Board, said in the statement. “We deeply respect and are mindful of those who have concerns, and yet, we hope they will permit us to proceed with this important task while reserving their right to peaceful protest.”
The telescope, planned to be built on the summit of Mauna Kea, would be one of the world’s largest. Designed to operate in near-ultraviolet and mid-infrared wavelengths, the TMT would have a much higher resolution than that of the Hubble Space Telescope, allowing scientists to glimpse the universe in its infancy. Mauna Kea, which is a dormant volcano, is the ideal site as it provides a clear view of the sky for most part of the year, with little air and light pollution.
However, the project continues to face opposition from native Hawaiians and environmentalists. While the natives say that the site has burials, monuments, and places of worship venerated by them, the environmentalists point out that the construction at the site, which already has several other telescopes, would damage the ecosystem and harm the existing “physical and environmental aspects of the land.”
In his statement, Yang said that his organization would thoroughly investigate the land before construction resumes “in order to protect Mauna Kea and preserve the sensitive environment.”
“In an effort to be sensitive to and observant of the Native Hawaiian host culture, we will deepen our knowledge of the cultural, ecological, and spiritual aspects of the mountain and continue to learn how to better respect and appreciate Mauna Kea’s important cultural areas,” Yang added.
Reacting to the announcement, Kealoha Pisciotta, one of six plaintiffs challenging the telescope's construction permit, told the Associated Press that it demonstrates “a lack of good faith” and the organization’s “lack of willingness to follow the law.”