The construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) on Mount Kea, Hawaii, will start again this Wednesday after its almost three-month halt due to protests. TMT Observatory, the non-profit organisation behind the project, made the announcement in a statement released over the weekend.
“After more than two months of consultation, education, and dialogue 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, Chair of the TMT Observatory Board, said in the statement.
The organisation suspended the construction of the telescope in April following the arrests of protestors for blocking the road to the summit and refusing to leave the construction site.
Kealoha Pisciotta, one of six plaintiffs challenging the telescope's construction permit, told the Associated Press that she was shocked by the TMT’s announcement.
“I believe that it demonstrates a lack of good faith,” she said.
“I'm sorry to say that Mr. Moore [major funder of the project] and the Thirty Meter Telescope board are demonstrating their lack of willingness to follow the law.”
The Supreme Court of Hawaii announced on Friday last week that a preliminary hearing will take place on Aug 27 for the case challenging the TMT’s permit.
According to Yang, the majority of Hawaiians support the building of the telescope.
“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,” Yang said.
However, Pisciotta said that protests against the project will continue.
“It means that our people are going to have to be arrested, and arrested for actually trying to get the TMT to follow the law, not arrested for disobeying the law,” she said.
Native Hawaiians of Big Island believe that their story of creation began atop the Mauna Kea, which is also traditionally considered home to some deities and a burial site.
Mauna Kea, already home to 13 telescopes, is one of the best places on earth for observation of space. The site provides a clear view of the sky for 300 days a year along with little air and light pollution.
If completed, TMT will provide sharp and deep images of the space with its 30 meter diameter mirror, 8 times larger than those of today’s best telescopes.
TMT will cost about $1.4 billion to build and is backed by the US, Indian, Chinese, Japanese and Canadian governments.