Colorado gets a 24-karat donation to cover the State Capitol dome in gold

The Colorado Statesman

The State Capitol’s iconic gold dome will once again be clad with gold mined in Colorado, and the shiny stuff won’t cost taxpayers a cent.

That’s because Anglo-Gold Ashanti, owners of the Cripple Creek & Victor Mine in Teller County, is donating 72 ounces of the precious metal to a state preservation effort under way to restore the dome.

“There are few symbols that are more powerful for the state of Colorado than our gold dome at the State Capitol, something that the entire state is rightfully proud of,” said Gov. John Hickenlooper, who accepted the donation at the Capitol on Thursday in front of a crowd of heavily armed guards, dignitaries, gold miners and those curious to catch a glimpse of a hunk of metal worth more than $1 million.

Gov. John Hickenlooper accepts the symbolic donation of a 55-pound “button” of gold bullion, unveiled to the left of the State Seal, from Anglo-Gold Ashanti, owners of the Cripple Creek and Victor Mine, on Sept. 22 at the State Capitol. After extensive processing, 72 ounces of 24-karat gold will be refined from the lump, which represents one day’s output from the mine, and returned as gold leaf to gild the Capitol dome as part of a two-year restoration project.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

“As everybody in the industry knows, Colorado gold shines just a little bit brighter,” said Anglo-Gold Ashanti CEO Mark Cutifani.

Hickenlooper, a geologist by training, thanked Cutifani and a number of the mine’s employees for the donation.

“Today’s very generous donation of gold, which has been mined in our own backyard, will help complete the capitol restoration project as well as keeping the dome as a powerful symbol — not just of Colorado but of our natural resources, the foundation so much of our state was built on,” he said.

Recognizing a passel of state lawmakers in the crowd, Hickenlooper quipped, “They’re attracted to gold just like the rest of you, especially in these difficult budget years.”

At an occasion bursting with symbolism — at one point Hickenlooper compared the dome restoration campaign’s chairman, former U.S. Sen. Hank Brown, to the gold, saying he was also “a symbol of all that is great about this state” — the 55-pound lump on display actually contained the gold that will eventually wrap the dome but also includes plenty of extra silver and gold that the state won’t get.

The gold — known as a button, it resembles a dented Hershey’s Kiss or a crude thimble — amounts to about a single day’s production from the mine, which was the source of the original gold leaf applied to the Capitol dome just over 100 years ago. The alloy, known as “gold doré bullion,” was worth $1.19 million based on Thursday morning’s prices in London.

It’s bound for an out-of-state processor, who will refine the metal and then send on enough of the resulting pure gold — about $127,000 worth, based on Thursday’s spot prices — to an out-of-state manufacturer to produce the gold leaf. According to the restoration schedule, the gold should arrive back in Colorado early next year, when the dome gets covered by scaffolding for more than two years until the job is finished.

The dome has been covered with fresh gold three times since the copper-clad structure was originally gilded with Colorado gold in 1908. It got a new coat in 1949 and another in 1980, but brutal hail damage meant another coat was required by 1991. None of the subsequent applications used gold from Colorado. If things work out, the new coat of Colorado gold should last 30-40 years, experts said.

The restoration project is tackling more than the dome’s shiny surface. More than 100 years old, the underlying cast-iron structure is showing its age due to water damage, and officials plan to replace old bolts with stronger new ones, as well as remove lead-based paint and replace the copper surface that faces the dome under the gold gilt.

Share in the Care Colorado, the public-private restoration project, was seeded with $4 million from state gaming funds directed at historic preservation, but organizers say they must raise $13 million to finish the job. In addition to Anglo-Gold Ashanti, prominent sponsors include the Colorado Mining Association, KUSA, the Colorado Education Association, Comcast, KEZW and KOSI radio, CBS Outdoor, AT&T Colorado, Colorado Humanities, Circuit Media, and Havey Productions. Cell phone users can text the word DOME to 50555 to make a $10 donation. To donate online, visit www.ShareInTheCareColorado.org.

Ernest@coloradostatesman.com