Bhubaneswar, Sep 16 (PTI) Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Thursday inaugurated the expansion of the existing Alumina refinery of Utkal Alumina located at Kashipur in Rayagada district.

Situated at the tribal hinterland of Odisha, the expansion unit by the Aditya Birla group is built with an investment of Rs 1,500 crore which will improve the refinery’s annual capacity by 0.5 MT to 2 MT alumina productions per annum.

The expanded project will provide employment to 500 people both directly and indirectly. Aditya Birla group presently employs more than 12,000 people in Odisha.

"I am happy that investors in Odisha are expanding their existing projects in Odisha even during the COVID-19 pandemic period. This shows that our economy is bouncing back from the impacts of the pandemic and we are back on the path of sustained growth and development," Patnaik said.

The chief minister said the group has been a key player in the state’s journey of industrial development. The group has its meaningful presence spanning across sectors like metals, cement, financial services, apparel and retail. This expansion is a testimony to the long-standing relationship between the Aditya Birla group and Odisha, he added.

Patnaik expressed confidence that this expansion would help in further growth of the industrial economy of Odisha, especially in the tribal regions of the state.

The CM asked the Aditya Birla group to guide their ancillary units and associates to visit the state and explore more opportunities to invest in the state. This will certainly help build an industrial ecosystem that will benefit all the stakeholders through improved efficiency and cost-effectiveness, he added.

The Utkal Alumina was set up in Rayagada district in 1993 with an investment of Rs 8,600 crore. Now, the group has spent Rs 1,500 crore for this expansion.

Joining the programme through virtual mode, Aditya Birla Group Chairman, Kumar Mangalam Birla said that Odisha has emerged as the top-most investment destination for the Aditya Birla Group.

Birla praised the vision of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik in all-round development of Odisha and appreciated the role of state government in the success of Indian Hockey at Olympics. He also expressed his happiness on his role as a proud partner in the development story of the state.

Stating that the Aditya Birla Group is committed to long-term investment in Odisha, he said: "Over the years, we have invested well over Rs 30,000 crore in the state. Eight of our group businesses have a significant presence in the state and this has given employment to about 35,000 people." "The Aditya Birla Group will invest about Rs 7,200 crore across various businesses," he said, adding that for Hindalco, the group have earmarked an investment of Rs 3,000 crore to set up flat-rolled projects at Hirakud.

Hindalco, MD Satish Pai said this expansion and Hindalco’s downstream capacity will make Odisha home to one of the largest, most modern flat rolled aluminium product plants in the world with world-class technologies from our American subsidiary Novelis. The development will accelerate the pace of employment generation in technology, transportation, packaging and logistics and boost business for ancillary industries, he said.

Noting that India is the third largest producer of aluminium in the world, he said: "With Hindalco’s additional capacities, Odisha will produce 2/3rd of that metal."