Chile suspends Endesa's planned $1.4 bln thermo plant
* 740-MW project's environmental impact study rejected
* Endesa says to appeal to govt' over decision
* Energy woes hammering world top copper producer
SANTIAGO, June 25 (Reuters) - A Chilean commission suspended energy firm Endesa's $1.4 billion, 740-megawatt Punta Alcade coal-fired thermoelectric project planned in the world top copper miner's mineral-rich north, the environmental impact agency said on Monday.
Endesa said it would appeal to the government over the decision to reject Punta Alcalde's environmental impact study, the latest blow to a mega project in power-starved Chile.
Environmental groups are increasingly opposing power projects ranging from coal-fired thermoelectric plants in Chile's northern Atacama, the world's driest desert, to hydropower dams in the wild southern Patagonia region.
The two 370-megawatt units are planned in Chile's Atacama region, close to Antofagasta Minerals' Los Pelambres mine, the Cerro Casale project owned by Barrick Gold and Kinross, and Lumina Copper's Caserones mine.
Other energy and mining projects in the Atacama region are also reeling from legal setbacks.
Chile's top court suspended a key permit for Canadian miner Goldcorp Inc's $3.9 billion El Morro copper-gold project in April and is due to pronounce itself on Batista's MPX Energia and giant German utility E.ON's $5 billion Central Castilla in coming weeks.
Years of under-investment, a destructive 8.8 magnitude earthquake in 2010, droughts and the country's long, thin shape have debilitated Chile's power grid, drawing increasing fire from energy-intensive mining firms.
Environmental groups say many of the massive energy projects would harm air quality, destroy pristine Patagonian areas or pollute often-scarce water supplies.
A spike in lawsuits against key energy projects is increasing already steep power prices and inhibiting investment, deputy energy minister Sergio del Campo told Reuters in an interview earlier this month. (Reporting by Alexandra Ulmer;editing by Sofina Mirza-Reid)
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