Mauna Kea Update for September 2021

As astronomers wait with bated breath for the outcome of the decadal survey called Astro2020, the role
of TMT in the future of world astronomy hangs in the balance. The survey is a year overdue, and it
provides an analysis of the needs of the next decade in the fields of astronomy and astrophysics,
projecting priorities for the most important scientific and technical activities. It can also serve as a guide
for scientists, policy makers, and agencies invested in the astronomical sciences. If the TMT makes the
list, the TMT partners are still $1 billion short of the funds needed to build, and short of funds to operate
and decommission it thereafter. The lease of lands held in trust for the benefit of native Hawaiians on
the summit of Mauna Kea will expire in 2033, requiring the decommissioning to begin before first light,
if it were built at all.

Meanwhile, in the Canary Islands, the alternate location identified by the TMT partners, A Spanish judge
has overturned the concession agreement that allows the proposed cutting-edge instrument to be built
on public land near the summit of La Palma’s highest summit. The judge ruled in favor of the Canary
Islands chapter of an environmental group known as Ben Magec, Ecologists in Action, who brought the

The Ben Magec group reports that “this cancelled land concession is the one the island government
processed in 2019 after the same Court had revoked the previous concession for the TMT in 2017.
Therefore, it is already the second occasion in which Justice rules against the interest of the Thirty
Meters Telescope International Organization to have on La Palma an alternative site to the mountain
Mauna Kea. This ruling puts the TMT back to square one, since, as the public land concession is
prerequisite, everything that has been approved subsequently based on the annulled concession would
be equally invalid.

Spokesperson Irene Ojeda said “We believe that the five years TIO has lost in La Palma should make
them reflect on the arrogant and disrespectful strategy they have had, both in Hawaii and in the Canary
Islands, emboldened with institutional supports and despising the reasons of the opposition to the TMT.
TIO already knew in 2016 that their project on La Palma contravenes all urban and environmental
regulations that protect the area. Nevertheless, they preferred to collude with the IAC and the local
authorities to modify the laws in their own interest, like purest style of urban planning corruption

Meanwhile, back in Hawai`i, the legislature’s “Mauna Kea Working Group” special committee, has
convened no public meetings, but plans to present recommendations for a new governance and
management structure for Mauna Kea to the legislature by Dec. 31, 2021. The Legislature would then
hold public hearings on bills based on these recommendations to create laws needed to enact a new
governance and management structure. Public comments may be emailed to All submissions will be shared with working group members, who
have created a webpage that can be accessed

Leave a Comment