Thirty Meter Telescope construction on Mauna Kea resumes Wednesday

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After more than two months of delays, work will resume on the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT).

The non-profit company that oversees the project gave the go-ahead to restart construction atop Mauna Kea on Wednesday, June 24.

“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,” said Henry Yang, Chair of the TMT International Observatory Board, in a statement. “Our period of inactivity has made us a better organization in the long run. We are now comfortable that we can be better stewards and better neighbors during our temporary and limited use of this precious land, which will allow us to explore the heavens and broaden the boundaries of science in the interest of humanity.”

Yang said he looks forward to developing a positive relationship with Hawaiians. He said it is important to understand that the “majority of Hawaii’s people are supporting the TMT project.”

The chairman said TMT will first do an assessment of equipment and machines. This, he said, will ensure that the construction will operate “safely and correctly.” Yang said it is important that TMT protects Mauna Kea’s “sensitive environment.”

After this assessment, Yang added that TMT will then “…repair and install fencing in the interest of public safety.”

The $1.4 billion telescope project was developed as a collaboration between U.S. and Canada universities and the national institutes of Japan, China and India.

Protesters and cultural practitioners on Mauna Kea will continue their activities.

“We hope to accomplish the stopping of the intention of TMT to continue the desecration there. We want to block all machinery and people intent on any type of desecration or breaking of ground on the Mauna,” said Kamahana Kealoha, head facilitator for Sacred Mauna Kea Hui.

TMT says it will not stop them.

“Allowing this practice to continue to occur will require further dialogue and mutual agreement to work out the details in order to establish a cooperative and harmonious environment for all parties,” said Yang. “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 Maunakea’s important cultural areas.

Walter Ritte, who is helping to organize people in protest, said TMT is making a big mistake. “If they expect to go ahead and work on Wednesday, they’re gonna have to go through all of the people and people are gonna be lining the roads,” warned Ritte.

Ritte said he was ultimately surprised at TMT’s announcement. “I thought things were going well with community talks and everybody bearing out their positions and they were gonna do ho’oponopono for the people who got arrested, so I thought that was progress going on. So this is just gonna inflame everything once again.”

Ritte added it’s not up to TMT to dictate what they can and cannot do.

Other observatories will be monitoring the situation closely.

Rich Matsuda, operations and infrastructure senior manager, W. M. Keck Observatory, released the following statement:

Maunakea Observatories’ staff members continue to have cordial and respectful interactions with the protectors as they travel up and down the mountain for their daily work on the telescopes. Out of respect for the situation’s complex nature, and to ensure the positive dialogue will continue, the Observatories will scale back operations on June 24, 2015. Safety for everyone on the mountain is our primary concern, and we will modify our schedules accordingly.

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