This paper outlines a comprehensive, cost-effective testing program for the acid-ferric sulfate heap leaching of oxide, supergene and primary copper ores. It is based on extensive experience in copper heap leaching and uses the many technological advances in the field developed over the past several decades. The approach described requires firstly a detailed resource evaluation, then a hydrodynamic characterization of representative samples and, finally, a focused metallurgical testing program. The principles communicated here can be applied to other acid leachable minerals. The program varies considerably from conventional testing in its disciplined, orderly, step-by-step approach, its application of hydrological and chemical principles to leaching, and its reliance on fewer, more tightly controlled column tests. The purpose of the test program is to optimize the financial, time and other resources devoted to the program, while minimizing the financial risks to the development company or companies and the project funding providers.