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Workers change drilling pipes on the rotary table of a natural gas drilling rig near Towanda, Pennsylvania, in this February 3, 2010 file photo.

TIM SHAFFER/Reuters

The new Parti Québécois government hasn't wasted any time hinting about a long-term ban on the shale gas industry.

Quebec's new natural resources minister, Martine Ouellet, says she doesn't believe the controversial method of extracting natural gas from shale, known as "fracking," can ever be done safely.

She made her remarks on her way into her first cabinet meeting, on her first full day as a cabinet minister in the new Parti Québécois government.

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Ms. Ouellet says she supports a broad moratorium on both the exploration and exploitation of shale gas.

Quebec halted shale-gas exploration in its fledgling industry last year to conduct more studies on the ecological risks.

Critics fear the method of unlocking natural gas from shale formations will create serious environmental problems — including the contamination of drinking water.

The industry insists that extraction chemicals are only used in small doses and the chances of them seeping into the environment are very slim.

Analysts, meanwhile, have called shale gas a potential economic game-changer.

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