Hawaii telescope project on hold for now

‘This is our last stand.’ Protesters on Mauna Kea dig in their heels
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Hundreds of protesters have blocked a road leading up to a massive telescope atop Mauna Kea, Hawaii's tallest mountain.

After more than five months of protests over construction of a giant telescope on land some native Hawaiians consider sacred, Hawaii Gov. David Ige said Thursday that state law enforcement will be removed from the site after he was informed that the project “would not be proceeding with construction at this time.”

Ige said that his office will work with Thirty Meter Telescope to determine when the company will be ready to proceed.

Demonstrations have taken place at the access road to Mauna Kea on Hawaii’s Big Island since mid-July, when the company was slated to begin construction of a telescope at the top of the mountain. Hundreds of protesters have blocked a road leading to the top of mountain.

Astronomers value the site as among the best in the world for capturing a clear glimpse of he origins of the universe. But some native Hawaiians see it as a place where humans can enter heaven and where revered ancestors are buried.

The company said that conversations about construction are ongoing, but that the road and the mountain should be accessible to all.

“Maunakea access should be open to everyone. It’s a state road and hunters, hikers, locals looking to snow play, visitors, cultural practitioners, astronomers, commercial tour operators and stargazers should expect no less from State and County government,” Gordon Squires, TMT’s vice president for external relations said in a statement.

“Maunakea remains our preferred site. The project and our individual partners are committed to moving forward in a manner that honors and supports our scientific goals, environmental stewardship and the traditions and culture of Hawaii.”

Ige issued an emergency proclamation in July to allow law enforcement increased authority to close more areas and restrict access on Mauna Kea when protestors lined up to block access roads from construction.

“Our top priority is the safety and security of our communities and the TMT construction teams. This is a long-term process and we are committed to enforcing the law and seeing this project through,” Ige said at the time.

CNN’s Ryan Prior contributed to this report.