World

Thirty Meter Telescope construction disrupted by protesters again

One of the world's largest telescopes is set to begin construction today in Hawaii as protesters claim the latest telescope will sit on burial grounds atop Mauna Kea mountain.

Peaceful protesters to oppose today's construction of 1 of world's largest telescopes

Hilo police face off with protestors Wednesday at the Maunakea Visitors Center in Hilo, Hawaii. Construction on the Thirty Meter Telescope was set to resume after a nearly two-month delay in construction. (Jamm Aquino/The Star-Advertiser via AP)

Eleven people were arrested on Wednesday in a protest against what would be one of the world's largest telescopes being built on a dormant Hawaiian volcano, which has sparked a contentious debate over Native Hawaiian rights and sacred lands.

Workers attempted to resume construction of the $1.4 billion US Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) on the 13,000-foot summit of Mauna Kea on Wednesday, but were met by several hundred demonstrators who put large boulders in the path of construction vehicles.

The summit is considered by astronomers to be one of the best places in the world to view the cosmos, but the mountain is also sacred to Hawaiians and protesters have stood vigil on its sometimes-frigid summit for months.

A man is arrested earlier this summer after blocking the road to the top of Hawaii's Mauna Kea where the giant telescope is being constructed. (Mileka Lincoln/Hawaii News Now via AP)
Work was put on hold for two months after the arrests of 31 people blocking access to the site, a move that prompted Hawaii Governor David Ige to negotiate a timeout he hoped would lead to a resolution.

But protesters, after successfully turning back the construction crews on Wednesday, said they were not going away.

"Mauna Kea is the place of our origin. We were brought into the world here. It is considered the temple of the most supreme being for Hawaiian people," said Kealoha Pisciotta, president of Mauna Kea Anaina Hou, one of the groups protesting the telescope.

"It is also the burial ground for our most sacred ancestors. Our people are not standing down," she added.

The Hawaii Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments in August on the permit process that allowed the nonprofit Thirty Meter Telescope International Observatory LLC to build and operate the telescope. There are 13 other telescopes at the summit of Mauna Kea already.

Partners for the non-profit constructing the telescope include:

  • India. 
  • China. 
  • Canada. 
  • Japan.
  • The Thirty Meter Telescope Observatory Corporation, which was formed by the University of California and the California Institute of Technology.
The Thirty Meter Telescope, being built atop Mauna Kea, a large dormant volcano in Hawaii, is set to become one of the world's largest telescopes. Natives opposed to Wednesday's restart of construction were camped out near the site, vowing to stop further work. (TMT Observatory Corporation/The Associated Press)

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