Edgar Sengier (1879 – 1963) was the director of Union Miniere du Haut Katanga.
After being warned by British scientists regarding the potential danger were the uranium ore to fall into the wrong hands, Sengier decided to transport half the uranium stockpile from the Congo to the United States in 1940. The ore was stored in warehouses on Manhattan Island, while Sengier himself came to New York to conduct his company’s operations.
At the time, the US Army had been actively searching for uranium. When Col. Kenneth Nichols came to Edgar Sengier, he was surprised to learn that Sengier already had 1,200 tons of it on American soil. Another 3,000 tons from the Shinkolobwe mine was also sold to the US Army and transported to the United States.
Sengier’s efforts were instrumental in helping the Americans develop the atom bomb. Before uranium ore had been brought over from Africa, the Americans relied on Canadian uranium ore, which contained only .02% uranium. By contrast, the Shinkolobwe ore contained 65% uranium.
As a result, Sengier became the first non-American civilian to receive the Medal for Merit.