Sacred ground: Battle over Hawaii telescope

A plan to build a giant new telescope on a Hawaii mountain has been stalled by days of protests by locals who consider the site sacred ground. Demonstrators have blocked construction vehicles from accessing the mountain, while police have begun arresting protest leaders as both sides refuse to back down.

Astronomers say Mauna Kea, a mountain on Hawaii’s Big Island already dotted with observatories, would be the ideal spot to build the vast Thirty Meter Telescope thanks to its clean air and high elevation.

But its construction is fiercely opposed by some native Hawaiians, who consider the mountain’s peaks sacred and have been battling the building of the telescope for years through protests and in the state’s courts.

The current demonstrations broke out Monday after authorities closed the road to the mountain to allow groundwork to begin. Demonstrators set up their own roadblocks to prevent construction vehicles entering.

On Wednesday, police began arresting some protesters, many of them native elders, and removing them from the mountain.

If built, the $1.4 billion (€1.25 billion) telescope would be among the biggest and most advanced in the world.

Its construction has already been significantly delayed amid legal battles, but it was finally given the go-ahead in October last year when the state Supreme Court upheld the project's permit.